'It's a Miracle': Century 21 Reopens to Flood of Long-Waiting Bargain Hunters

Customers crowd the ground floor on Century 21 NYC's reopening day. Photo: Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib

May. 16, 2023

It was the grand reopening of Century 21 on Tuesday and Sonny Gindi, a member of the family that has owned and operated the retailer for 60 years, applauded the eager shoppers as they flooded into the store. “It’s so exciting. Everybody wants us back,” he said, as if in disbelief. 

Daisy Szeto, on her lunch hour, was so excited to be in the store again that she gave Gindi a hug.

“I used to come here every Friday after work. Whether it was payday or not,” she told him. “This was my spot. Thank you all for reopening!”

Then she added, “I don’t know who you are.” 

“It doesn’t matter,” Gindi replied. “I appreciate it. Thank you for the kind words.”

“It’s just a miracle,” Gindi told the Trib. Very emotional. I didn’t think we’d be open.” 

Szeto was among the hundreds of bargain hunters who stood in a line that wrapped almost around the block of the flagship store at 22 Cortlandt St. They awaited the noon opening and a chance to be among the first to browse the racks and shelves of the retailer that had closed in September 2020. Citing the impact of the pandemic, the Gindis shut down their 13 locations and filed for bankruptcy. They later bought the business out of bankruptcy for $9 million and a year ago announced its intentions to open this spring. The store is now called Century 21 NYC.

Formerly on six floors, the store now occupies four levels and roughly 100,000 square feet, down from its previous 250,000 square feet. But judging by the crowded aisles and cacophony of busy bargain hunters, there was no downsizing of shopper enthusiasm. 

“I missed the store and I was here when it went out of business,” said Sheniqua Brown 38, from the Bronx, who was among the first in line when she arrived "at 7:01, five hours before the doors opened. “I’m happy that it’s back. I can save a lot of money and catch up on a lot of good deals.”

Daisy and Cindy, mother and daughter who declined to give their last name, arrived early Tuesday morning from West Palm Beach, Fla., just for the reopening. Before the store had closed, they said, they would fly in two or three times a year to shop there. “We were getting items here that we could never find anywhere else,” noted Daisy, who said she was on the hunt for a Moschino sweatshirt.

It was important to be there on the first day,” Daisy said. “Why would you come the second day?” she laughed. “There may be nothing left.”

In a statement last year, Century 21 co-CEO Raymond Gindi noted that in its six decades the store only closed twice: after 9/11 and during the COVID-19 pandemic. “But like the true New Yorkers we are,” he said, “we have persevered.”