Forced to shutter during the Covid-19 pandemic, discount luxury goods store Century21 reopened its flagship location in Manhattan recently, drawing elated crowds of bargain hunters back to the New York institution.
Shoppers traversed the city and even state borders to line up from as early as 6am to be some of the first to enter the legendary Big Apple department store near the World Trade Centre complex in lower Manhattan.
Under red balloons and to the applause of Century21 owners the Gindi family, the first shoppers shouted with joy as they entered the store after three years of closure due to the pandemic, which brought New York to its knees in 2020 and 2021.
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"It means so much to the people of New York," said 63-year-old Gale Kaplan, who traveled from Brooklyn across the East River for the reopening.
"During 9/11 it closed and when it reopened, everybody was so joyful, so to see it able to come back after Covid, it feels like a real new blossoming of New York and I'm just thrilled to be back here shopping."
Brooklyn was the home of the first iteration of Century21, founded in 1961 and decked with clothes and accessories from coveted brands such as Valentino, Louis Vuitton, Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, Guess, Levi's, Kate Spade, Helmut Lang, but at end of stock reduced prices that defied all competition.
'The best store'
Melody White, 62, traveled from the borough of Queens to get in line by 6am.
"I was really, really upset when they closed because it's the best store, you could get the best buys, nice clothes, everything."
Kaplan was "more excited standing on line to the Century21 opening than I was on line for the Sistine Chapel," she said.
"That's how happy I am."
Also all smiles, Century21 vice president Eddie Gindi said that it was "an incredible day for us."
"Right now we're making history," he said, more than 20 years after almost disappearing after the September 11, 2001, attacks that destroyed the twin towers at the nearby World Trade Centre, and three years after the company filed for bankruptcy as New York was battered by the pandemic.
"We don't take this for granted," he said.
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New York Mayor Eric Adams, who has put the economic and touristic recovery of the megalopolis at the heart of his policies – despite inflation – was also celebrating, hugging the Gindi family in the store, its aisles again stacked with merchandise.
"When they had to close, it just broke their hearts. And all they thought about is how do we come back?... How do we serve the people? It was a main anchor for our tourists, they would come here and line up and shop, to see the good products that we had in all places," he said.
For Gindi, the grand reopening of Century21 "is bringing back the spirit of New York City like no other company can do because we are part of the thread of New York City", one of the world's leading economic and commercial centres. – AFP