Century 21 Re-Opens

You can't get there from the West, or the North or the South, for that matter. The subway stop on the corner is closed. The only way to get into century 21's Courtlandt or Dey street entrances is from Broadway, to the east. Even so, the official reopening of Century 21 was packed yesterday morning, as family members of the owners and local leaders squished between italian purses and gaultier jeans.

SFX: O3 begin national anthem.

Although the national anthem is often played at ribbon cuttings, there were many tears visible as the crowd faced west, towards a flag on the dais, and beyond it, clear blue sky out the windows where the twin towers once stood.

SFX: run anthem in the clear for a few seconds, then fade.

But even with the tears and the tributes, the dominant emotion Thursday was joy. Al Gindi is the founder of Century 21/

13: al gindi I stand here today proud to be an american a new yorker and a business owner at ground zero forty years ago, armed with vision, a little money saved, money borrowed and hard work I started c21 dept store a family owned business right here.

The elected officials on the stage couldn't wait to shop. Here's Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, whose office is one block south.

Eliot 10: This morning, as I was walking over here, normally someone hands me a piece of paper with some prepared comments and I looked at it and it was a shopping list

And Mayor Michael Bloomberg:

16…incidentially eliot I also work in the neighborhood…and I will be shopping afterwards too I'm going to need some clothes for weekend trips laughter…

18 and now ladies and gentleman the moment we have all been waiting for the mayor of the city of new york along with mr. al gindi and mr. sunny gindi will cut the ribbon heralding the repopening of our flagship store

Then, true to his word, the Mayor walked over to the men's department one room over.

26 hello, hello may I buy these, of course you may, I'm paying by my american express card which I've urged people to use…I could use this on the golf course, I could use this running, I could wear it in all five boroughs
34.85, charge?
Sounds inexpensive you sure you charged me for everything

The store looks pristine, and it has new lighting, new carpeting, and new, wider aisles. Although downtown retailers say business since september 11 is down 60 percent – on a good day – Chief Operating Officer Ray Gindi is hoping the renovation and publicity will draw customers.

29: we're a destinattion store and theres a lot of pent up demand from customers who said they were going to shop and we're hoping that's going to be true

But for the most part, people are thrilled. In the mens department, a group of sales associates stood waiting for the store to open.

37: Bernstein: how does It feel to be back? very good very good, we have the customers, we have a job again and its good to see the customers come back to shop in manhattan, manhattan is getting back to the

Gau Kirmramnamden says he spent most of the last six months at home.

Gau K. I was unemployed, babysitting, taking care of my family, I had no other choice but to stay at home.

04: welcome back, you look wonderful, nice to see you welcome back, hello welcome back

An hour later, shoppers who had lined up for hours in the freezing cold poured in through the doors.

donna smithson: 05: okay I'm going down to bedding I'm so happy its open… 08: going to housewares? Yeah where's the girls….we're going to housewares…oh its so good!

Heather Lieberman says she didn't mind waiting for three hours on line – what's three hours, she said, after six months?

47, I live here we're so glad to have it back, don't tell anybody but I probably coming here daily sort of like coffee, got to have it…

The employees and the shoppers aren't the only ones who are pleased. Musharef Hussein manages a sushi store down the block.

48 I'm feeling very happy so I'm going to get more customer because lots of customer come from this store to there.

Hussein says he used to do $3000 of business a day – now he does about $800. But with Century 21 opened down the block, he's hoping to be back to half his former sales. For a business in lower manhattan, that's good news, indeed. For WNYC, I'm Andrea Bernstein in Lower Manhattan.