New York’s Legendary Century 21, the clothing store chain first started in Brooklyn by a Syrian Jewish immigrant named Samuel “Sonny” Gindi. Gindi founded the first Century 21 store in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn in 1961.
Sonny Gindi’s personal story is worthy of its own biopic. It is nothing short of a Horatio Alger rags to riches story, a true story of the realization of the American dream.
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Born in 1924, His father died when Gindi was just nine years old. Gindio opened his first retail store when he was just 14 years old. His Lolly Togs children’s wear business, which opened in 1959, was the first American business to import products from Hong Kong. Together with his cousin Al Gindi he opened the Century 21 department store on Courtland Street in Manhattan.
Gindi died in 2012. After his death Century 21 expanded outside of the New York Metropolitan area. His son Raymond Gindi is still the company’s CEO. The store became famous for its offerings of discount clothing and surviving the 9/11 attacks on New York. Its main location was situated in New York’s Financial District right by the World Trade Center.
At its height the brand had thirteen locations spread out over the Northeastern U.S. It had planned to open a huge location in the new American Dream super-sized indoor mall located next to the Meadowlands sports complex in New Jersey where the NFL’s Jets and Giants both play.
But that all came to an end last September when the chain was unable to survive the Coronavirus pandemic. Because of the Covid-19 crisis the State of New Jersey ordered malls closed. So American Dream never opened and sits empty, waiting for the opportunity to finally have its grand opening. Century 21 was unable to make good on $175 million owed to its insurance providers and was forced to seek bankruptcy protections.
Century 21 co-CEO Raymond Gindi explained the decision in statement blaming the insurance companies saying that the retailer had “no viable alternative but to begin the closure of our beloved family business because our insurers, to whom we have paid significant premiums every year for protection against unforeseen circumstances like we are experiencing today, have turned their backs on us at this most critical time.”
At the time the New York Times described Century 21 like this:
“….sprawled across six buildings, its reputation as a shopping mecca is almost mythical, inspiring folk tales of staggering designer deals and chaos in the communal fitting rooms. Today those fitting rooms have doors, and the crowds have dwindled as more branches opened and the internet introduced a new kind of bargain hunting. But that aura of budget bedlam never fully lifted.”
Well fans of the clothing store chain are now rejoicing. The other day the company released a statement declaring its intent to reopen after the Gindi family bought back the rights to its brand name. “Never count out a New Yorker. In response to the outpouring of love from the Big Apple and the admiration of their loyal shoppers from around the world, Century 21 Stores announced they will officially relaunch the beloved institution in 2021,” said the statement.
Century 21 has not yet finalized all of the details for its return, including where its branches will be located or exactly when the return will be. But the company did promise that by the end of this year it will, “bring shopping joy to Century 21’s faithful local customers while introducing that very same excitement to new fans across the globe.”