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  • Writer's pictureRuth Walker

I braved Century 21's final day so you wouldn't have to

When the fight broke out in line for Century 21’s final day of sales at Lincoln Square – someone mentioned an attempted stabbing, but I can’t confirm – we started to think we might have made an error of judgment.

However, the warning signs had started much earlier.

Perhaps we should have reconsidered our plans, for instance, when, after an hour of standing in line, we’d moved just six feet, and were still a full city block from the entrance. Some weaker souls had drifted away, of course – discouraged; uncomfortable; or faint from the noxious fumes pumping out from the halal truck on Broadway. Only the strong would survive. It was like The Hunger Games, where the reward for winning was a pair of $15 Stella McCartney snakeskin boots.

The next caution came when, after another 45 minutes, the manager came out to tell us there was basically nothing left. Even the actual shelves were flying off the – um – shelves.

Yet by now we were in it for the long haul. Friendships had been forged, as brave soldiers who had made it through and were now leaving with trash bags filled with the spoils of war (did I mention they’d run out of shopping bags too?) shared tales of the battleground – shop floors were decimated, all coats were gone, and good luck finding a pair of size 8 shoes!

It took another hour to reach the frontline, at which point the fight broke out and everything stopped as we gasped at the scene unfolding behind us. Security staff attempted to calm tensions, and as things turned nasty, NYPD were called.

But inside was the real war zone. Empty hangers lay abandoned on the floor; scraps of chiffon blowing like tumbleweed in the AC. But, for the troops, rich rewards. A Hugo Boss jacket, reduced from $400 to $20. A Cedric Charlier sweater dress, reduced from $500 to $35. A Perry Ellis suit down to $21. I may never wear the yellow cowboy booties I picked up (were $150, now $19), but – come on! Throughout it all, a kind of Dunkirk spirit prevailed – comparing purchases in the checkout line with a shared sense that we were part of history.

And Drew Haas, my fabulous cashier, turned the whole trip into a party, with a wit that was as sparkling as his accessories.

Farewell, Century. You survived 9/11, only to fall victim to coronavirus. You'll live on in the style of the city. The downtown store remains open for at least another month. Follow Drew for updates, and his hand-picked bargains. He promises to write a tell-all book about this when it's all over.

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