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Century 21 Is New York’s Newest Comeback Kid

Call it Century 21’s Cortlandt St. comeback.

On Wednesday, the reborn designer off-price nameplate announced plans to set up shop at its iconic flagship in the World Trade Center’s shadow, once again bringing the upscale fashion treasure hunt to Downtown Manhattan’s mix of tourists, New Yorkers and everyone in between.

The news comes in the wake of Century 21’s decision last year to begin its revival in South Korea’s Busan after the company famously collapsed into a bankruptcy brought on by a contentious Covid-19 insurance dispute that ultimately tanked the 61-year-old retailer, albeit briefly.

“Century 21 is, and always will be, a New York City brand,” said Century 21 co-CEO Raymond Gindi. “Our flagship store has been a long-time symbol of this city’s resilience and unwavering spirit.”

People visiting the store when it opens in the spring next year will find much of the same Century 21 they know and love: premium labels marked down 40 to 65 percent across clothing, shoes, handbags, accessories and fragrances for men, women and children.

But things will look a bit different behind the scenes. Century 21 is bringing aboard Legends to manage the customer retail experience.

“Working side by side with the Century 21 team, we have enhanced the in-store and e-commerce experience and are excited to ‘open the doors’ to a global audience in 2023,” said Dan Smith, president at Legends Hospitality, which operates brick-and-mortar, popups, e-commerce and in-venue programs for Yankee Stadium and One World Observatory as well as NFL, MB, PGA, and NASCAR brands, soccer club Real Madrid, the Dallas Cowboys and the 2012 and 2016 Olympics.

The roughly 100 workers staffing the Century 21 flagship when it opens will be employees of Legends, a Century 21 spokesperson confirmed.

Century 21 has faced its share of challenges since the Gindi family started the off-price retailer in 1961 with a 6,000-square-foot store at 472 86 St. in Brooklyn’s Bay Ridge that later expanded to 220,000 square feet over multiple storefronts. The business eventually added stores largely in New York and New Jersey. But the pandemic and insurance providers’ refusal to pay out $175 million to cover losses from Covid-19 led to a September 2020 bankruptcy that liquidation the company’s stores. The family ultimately bought back the intellectual property assets following a bankruptcy court auction, and closed on the transaction in December 2020.

The retailer won’t be returning to its Brooklyn store as demolition permits are in place. Meanwhile, Century 21 will occupy a much smaller footprint covering just the four main floors of the original space at 22 Cortlandt St. There are plans to separate the space from an adjacent site that had been occupied by Century 21 that opens onto 25 Church Street.

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Additional reporting by Jessica Binns.