Century 21 Stores announced it will be filing for bankruptcy and closing all 13 of its locations, including their only store in Queens located in Rego Park.
The New York-based discount department store was one of the first businesses to open within the Rego Park Center in 2010, with 134,000 square-feet worth of space.
Century 21 is filing for bankruptcy in Manhattan federal court, blaming insurers for non-payment of $175 million they say they were due under policies after business was interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
A few days after Century 21 announced the closure, shoppers waited to take advantage of their “going out of business” sale with up to 30 percent in discounts on a line that stretched from the store’s main entrance toward the back of the adjoining parking garage.
Queens Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tom Grech told QNS the closure of Century 21 is “terrible news for retail everywhere and for retail in Queens.”
“It just reinforces my efforts at the Queens Chamber of Commerce to truly buy and shop local whenever people can,” said Grech. “With almost a million New Yorkers unemployed, every job matters and every job, now, is essential — especially to the families of the workers that lose their jobs through no fault of their own.”
The store, which has been around for nearly 60 years, has six locations in New York City, including the store in Rego Park, two in Brooklyn (the original store was located in Bay Ridge) and three in Manhattan. They also have two locations on Long Island, and stores in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Florida.
Century 21 told New York State’s Department of Labor it will lay off 1,147 employees across all its stores. Rego Park’s Century 21 had 157 employees.
Before the pandemic forced New York City to shut down, IKEA was slated to open at Rego Center in summer 2020. But that opening — which would have been the first branch of the furniture giant in Queens — was pushed down to the fall due to the pandemic.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo allowed malls to reopen at half capacity on Sept. 9, after almost six months of being closed.
Rego Center did not respond to QNS’ request for comment.
News of Century 21’s closure comes as New York City and the nation face an economic crisis as a result of the pandemic. Within the last few months, national chains like Lord & Taylor and Men’s Warehouse announced they will also shut their doors and file for bankruptcy.
Small business across New York City have also been struggling to make ends meet, and have called for the city and state to enact immediate policy to prevent an economic collapse. One of their demands includes a law to mandate insurance companies pay businesses the claims they are owed.
Century 21’s founders, the Gindi family, wrote a letter to their loyal customers, stating they did everything they could to save the business.
“Sadly, while we have extensive business interruption insurance – which helped us to rebuild after we suffered the impact of 9/11 – nonpayment by our insurers under our policies has forced us to begin a wind down process that we fought hard to avoid,” their letter read. “We are beyond proud of the pioneering role that Century 21 has played in off-price retail, revamping the traditional industry model to allow those who love fashion as much as we do to access true designer merchandise at steep discounts.”