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After 51 years in Business, the Sheraton Bal Harbour Drawing Big Crowds to Liquidation;
Stiff Competition for Beds, China, Lamps, Wine Glasses
By Yamiche Alcindor, The Miami HeraldMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Jul. 13, 2007 - Beds, sheets, stainless steel, lamps, used.

For $1, you can take home a fork once used by Bill Clinton. Or perhaps it was Hillary.

There are thousands of pieces of china, hundreds of color televisions and one massive glass centerpiece, just perfect for your living room.

After 51 years in the business, the Sheraton Bal Harbour is about to be demolished to make room for the new St. Regis Resort & Residences. Everything -- even the carpeting -- is up for sale. But come prepared to wait, run, grab and carry, because there's stiff competition for the best stuff.

"I was running around like a madwoman in and out of every room checking the desks to see how many desks had scratches, how many had crayon marks from kids, and just really looking for the best one," said Christa Campbell, a senior at the University of Florida. "When I found the best one, I put my sticker on it and said it was mine."

Bargain-priced items include workout weights from the hotel gym, 600 blue-and-white pool chairs, 2,000-plus beds complete with mattress, frame and box ($165 for a full, $235 for a queen and $275 for a king), 554 color TVs ($89), curtains, artwork, marble sinks, thousands of pieces of china, and even a $275 stone turtle fountain that will be removed from the ground free of charge.

The most expensive item: the glass centerpiece, yours for $35,000.

The sale, which started Thursday, is expected to continue through August, said Donald Hayes, vice president of National Content Liquidators, the company in charge of gutting and selling everything inside the Sheraton.

Its liquidation sale is expected to bring in $1.5 million, Hayes said.

Campbell and others said the prices are fair.

"I was really interested in getting some desks and some matching lamps and definitely some wine glasses and champagne glasses," she said. "I ended up buying the desk; it was $45. It was beautiful wood, and I also got some luggage benches that matched."

But this event is not for the weak-kneed.

Shoppers on Thursday first had to wait 90 minutes just to get inside. Once they had their goods, there was an hourlong wait at the cashier.

If you still want to brave it, some tips:

While waiting outside, find the person handing out the paper order forms required to enter the building. When checking out, cashiers require that papers be filled out with the correct invoice number and quantity of each item being purchased.

Listen carefully to the 10-minute orientation over the loudspeaker. After that, you're on your own.

Wear comfortable shoes and bring something to drink and a friend to help you haul everything home.

Deedee Vasquez, waiting in line to buy a $65 safe, had this advice: "You have got to bring everything -- screwdrivers, truck, dolly -- because there's no help."

If Vasquez's advice gives you second thoughts, don't worry.

The Padded Wagon, a moving and storage company set up in the hotel's lobby, will take your stuff home for you -- for a minimum of $90 an hour.

The liquidators have provided a few other conveniences. Sample items -- a bed set, lamps, sheets and chairs -- are set up in the lobby to save buyers time from walking through each of the six floors open for business.

If it's a sample item, write down the invoice number, price and quantity you want on your order form and take it to the cashiers in the lobby. But, if it's movable, like mirrors, artwork and hair dryers, grab it and take it down yourself.

Among the shoppers was Thomas Dougherty, director of housekeeping for the Ramada Hollywood Beach Resort. He walked away with maid carts that cost $25 -- that's $275 less than retail price.

He also brought co-workers.

"My sales manager is here buying banquet equipment, tables, stands, clothes, linens, and tableclothes and linens," Dougherty said. "My maintenance man is also here buying engineering tools and engineering carts."

They'll probably be back, he said.

Not going home with anybody -- yet -- was a painting of really, really pretty purple palm trees. Price tag: $650.

Just wait a while. Said Greg Hall, an employee at National Content Liquidators: "As the sale goes on, the prices will go down."


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