Ernie Schimel, the senior buyer at Century 21 who pioneered the off-price chain’s European business, died Monday. He was 92.
The memorial service took place at I.J. Morris funeral home in Brooklyn.
Schimel worked for 52 years at the off-price retailer and retired when he was 88. He was legendary in the ladies’ designer market and was the first buyer hired by one of the company’s founders and owners Al Gindi.
Schimel launched Century 21’s European business in the early Eighties, which became a differentiator for the New York-based retailer. The genesis was when Schimel took a trip to Italy, where he scoured the country for great merchandise, driving coast to coast a dozen times and meeting with different designers and vendors and negotiating for discounts.
He is credited with opening accounts with Giorgio Armani and Escada, among other designer labels in Europe. He is also credited with bringing several American designer labels, including Oscar de la Renta, Donna Karan, Elie Tahari and Calvin Klein, to Century 21. To the very last day of his employment, Schimel continued to buy from many of the same designers he introduced to the retailer decades ago. Schimel joined Century 21 in 1962.
“I loved every day at Century 21, but after 52 years it was time to retire,” he once told WWD. “I want to focus on spending time with my family.”
Schimel is survived by his wife Harriet, son Gary, daughter Karen, six grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.