A GREAT RUN: Ernie Schimel, the senior buyer at Century 21 who pioneered the off-price chain’s European business, retires today after 52 years at the company.

The 88-year-old 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.

This story first appeared in the August 15, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“I loved every day at Century 21, but after 52 years it was time to retire. I want to focus on spending time with my family,” Schimel said. His family lives in Bradley Beach, N.J.

“The most challenging part of the job was getting top designers early on in my career. What I liked most about Century 21, was that Mr. Gindi, my mentor, gave me free hand.” He was referring to the late Sonny Gindi, cofounder of the store.

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.

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