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Century 21 takes back Manhattan

Andrea Lillo -- Home Textiles Today, March 4, 2002

A shopping icon in lower Manhattan is back in business. Century 21 Department Store, formerly in the shadow of the World Trade Center, reopened its doors last week after sustaining damage from the Sept. 11 attacks.

The department store has been a part of this area for 40 years, when Al Gindi first founded it as a 5,000-square-foot store. Now the flagship store here encompasses 150,000 square feet, and Century 21 has grown to include metropolitan locations in Brooklyn, Long Island and, soon, Morristown, NJ.

Gindi remembered the WTC being built just about 30 years ago, and the symbol that it became for New York. "Our roots are here so leaving was not an option," he said.

Though structurally sound, the department store had several windows blown out, and the downstairs level, where the home department is located, was flooded and filled with dust. When Stewart Weiss, home textiles buyer, went to the department store several days after the attacks, 3 to 4 inches of dust covered the floor, he said, which also had water damage. Emergency services crews also used the area for their activities.

No dirt remains now, as the department was cleaned up and remodeled. Incorporating some of the design elements seen in its home store in Brooklyn, the home department now has brand-new floors of gray granite as well as new ceilings, recessed lighting, wider aisles, checkouts and fixturing, said Weiss.

The upstairs section of the department store was always appealing, Weiss said, "and now we match the rest of the store." And even though the aisles grew from 3.5-feet wide to 4.5-feet wide, the store is able to put more product on the floor, he said. "Because of the new configuration we are able to get out more merchandise. We can present goods in an up-to-date and easy-to-shop environment."

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