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Filene's Basement Closes Doors With Deep Discounts

By Mary Johnson | December 29, 2011 10:43am

UNION SQUARE — It was the end of an era for bargain hunters.

After weeks of inventory-purging discounts, the Filene’s Basement in Union Square prepared to close its doors permanently on Thursday — but not before a few die-hard discount shoppers could snag a few parting purchases, for old time’s sake.

Jane Segin emerged from the bustling store on Wednesday with two heaping bags of clothes for her kids and her husband. She estimated she came away with some 40 items for a total cost of about $200.

“It’s sad that they’re closing,” Segin said. “I don’t understand why.”

Terry Hyslop netted a set of vibrantly-colored blankets and an umbrella for $25, but said it was slim pickings by the final days.

"The good stuff was all taken," Hyslop said.

Last month, Filene’s—perhaps best known for its annual “Running of the Brides” event— and its parent company, Syms, filed for bankruptcy protection and announced that it would be closing two dozen locations. That rash of closures included the Filene’s locations in Union Square and on the Upper West Side, as well as the Syms men’s store in Lower Manhattan.

The shutdowns were reportedly planned for some time in January, but the Filene’s in Union Square won’t make it to the new year.

Signs hung in the store's windows warning shoppers of their shrinking window left to take advantage of deep discounts of up to 90 percent off.

Bridal gowns that normally cost $699 were selling for just $19, and even the store's display racks were up for grabs at a 50 percent discount.

Shoppers and longtime fans of the chain have greeted the news with shock and sadness — both for the loss of the beloved bargain outlet and for the store’s employees who will soon be out of a job.

But that sadness hasn’t kept them from scooping up deals en masse.

Security guard Leandrea Lewis, 40, who was brought in after the bankruptcy was announced, said he has seen a variety of reactions over the past two months.

Some women have cried at the thought of Filene’s closing, he said. One guy tried to steal $600 worth of ladies' clothing, swearing it was for his mother. And another woman bought 30 wedding dresses one day. She came back the next day and brought 35 more, Lewis added.

“It’s been crazy every day,” said Lewis, who works for Cambridge Security Services Corp.

Ida Kwit, who has lived in the Union Square area for 40 years, said she had seen the quality of Filene’s clothing selection go down in recent years.

“I will miss it because it was always good to come to,” she said. “[But] they just weren’t current.”

As for the new Nordstrom Rack outlet that opened nearby? “It wasn’t as good as I thought it would be,” Kwit noted.

Helena Crisanto, 54, of Queens, spread her three stuffed plastic bags on the floor outside the store after her shopping trip on Wednesday and tried to figure out how to carry everything away.

She paid a total of $80 for the haul and clutched her streaming receipt with pride.

“I like the brands and the way they reduce the prices,” she said, spreading the receipt out and smiling. “I hope they reopen.”

Janice Haley, 45, of Brooklyn, and Doreese Forty, 51, of Queens, stopped by on Wednesday to pick up a couple of men’s shirts and a pair of fuzzy slippers.

“$14 for all four pieces,” Haley said, beaming.

The pair was planning one final trip on Thursday to pick up some blankets Forty had been eyeing. Filene’s is a part of their daily routine—one they will truly miss, the women agreed.

“We come here every day,” Haley said. “We’re so sad they’re leaving.”