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History for Sale; Liquidators Have 30 Days to Clear out The Yankee Trader
 Before Being Gutted for Renovation into a Westin Resort

By Robert Samuels, The Miami HeraldMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Jun. 7, 2008 - In what's being pitched as the "world's largest beachfront garage sale," deal-seekers by the hundreds are expected to flock to Fort Lauderdale beach Saturday to buy a piece of the Sheraton Yankee Trader hotel.

Up for grabs: 449 25-inch TVs, 918 rattan chairs, 1,200 white plates, 1,200 comforters, 1,200 scenic seaside paintings, bed sheets, telephones, ceiling fans, mirrors, lamps, wall art, desks, miles of carpeting and three humongous hotel dryers.

Just before the Yankee Trader is gutted for a major renovation, liquidators are selling off remnants of its past.

The Yankee Trader -- modern sister to the Sheraton Yankee Clipper down the beach -- has been a destination at 321 N. Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd. for nearly 45 years.

The Trader's twin 15-floor towers are now dwarfed by newer and larger hotels and condominiums as the area's historically kitschy character is edged out by more luxurious digs.

When the hotel reopens in February 2009, it will be as a pricier Westin resort. The Westin and Sheraton chains are owned by Starwood Hotels & Resorts.

The room's shower heads and Serta Perfect Sleepers will be replaced with items invoking near-religious ecstasy, such as the "Heavenly shower" and the "Heavenly bed."

Room prices at the low end of the scale will go up about a third to around $200 a night, and the new look should allow for visual metaphors galore.

"Visitors should expect a total Westin experience, with exciting levels of service that bring together the colors and feel of the Atlantic Ocean," hotel general manager Amaury Piedra said.

This week, sounds inside the hotel were more akin to sea lions than sea breezes. Forklifts holding a series of chairs rumbled along the floor to hotel elevators as crew members pushed them into corners. Other workers dismantled lamp and light fixtures, stripped off bed linens and threw away each room's 10 or so clothes hangers.

By Wednesday, the liquidation crew had already pulled apart eight floors of hotel rooms. A seven-foot-high tower of comforters was stacked in the lobby. On the snack shop counters were telephone books and about 20 Gideon Bibles.

"We don't sell the Bibles," said David White, president of the New Haven, Ct.-based Universal Hotel Liquidators, who is coordinating the effort. "We give those to charity."

White's crew has 30 days to clear out the Yankee Trader. They moved in Sunday afternoon, just as the last group of guests were supposed to be checked out.

Vacationers being late sleepers, at least 56 people still hadn't checked out by the 1:15 p.m. deadline.

"Usually when our company moves in, it's sad because the hotels are closing down forever," White said. "At least this one is reopening. There were some people who had been coming here for years. They know all the workers."

Last Sunday, White said, a group of friends from Canada flew down to say goodbye to the Yankee Trader as they knew it. They made the first "garage sale" purchase -- the numbers on their favorite room, 935.


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