The tan bunches of bananas form a large checkerboard on the chair’s black seat cushion; monkeys adorn each square. It was just one of the many monkey-themed items at The Colony Beach & Tennis Resort’s Monkey Room Lounge. Sarasota resident Alison Lansford picked it out on the morning of Thursday, Dec. 9, the first day of the Colony liquidation sale. For the past two years, Lansford enjoyed coming to the Monkey Room. So, she paid $25 for the chair, planning to put it at her home desk. Her plan was similar to that of many shoppers who that gathered that morning at the Colony.
“If I couldn’t stop the Colony from going down,” she said, “at least I’m going to take a piece of it with me.”
‘A big garage sale’
Less than two hours earlier, a crowd hovered in 40-degree weather outside of the Colony Dining Room. They were waiting for first dibs at pieces from the 40-year-old resort. Virtually everything, aside from furniture in the units, was — and still is — for sale at the 14-day event: everything from kitchen supplies to art work, shelving, tools, furniture and fitness equipment. But, before the sale began, Jim Long, operations manager of International Content Liquidations Inc., which he runs with his brother and company President Frank Long, laid out the liquidation basics: no smoking, venturing onto sealed off segments of the resort or using the property for beach access. Carry small items to the one cashier, located in the dining room, and pay for them there. Pay for larger items at the cashier as well, but take a sticker, place it on your purchase, and haul it away within three days.
“The way that it works is pretty much like a big garage sale,” Long said.
According to Long, the first day of a liquidation sale often attracts the savviest of shoppers: buyers hoping that the liquidator mistook a valuable antique for an inexpensive item. They’re unlikely to find it here, Long said. Hotels seldom keep extremely expensive things on hand. But with 37 years in the business, selling everything in liquidation sales from aquariums from the Longboat Key Holiday Inn to aortic balloon pumps from a surgical center, he can spot a valuable item.
He is unlikely to repeat the mistake he made as a 19-year-old rookie: He sold a small bowl at JP Morgan Estates, in Manhattan, N.Y., for less than $10. He’s pretty certain that the same bowl sold about a year later for $35,000.
But the sale doesn’t just draw the bargain-hunters — it also draws the memorabilia seekers.
Some items are standard.
Kitchen items are priced for as little as $1. A chain saw is $75; so is a wooden coffee table. Cardio machines in the fitness center start in the $600s.
Other items have a story.
The grand piano is priced at $3,000. It’s the piano that longtime pianist Jose Martinez played for decades; he always remembered a patron’s favorite song years after he or she had requested it.
The giraffe chair is $300. Longtime Colony President and General Manager Katie Moulton is pretty sure that her father, Dr. Murray “Murf” Klauber, longtime Colony chairman and CEO, picked it up from a showroom in New York City. On Thursday morning, Bob Butera and Ronny Kaleskas eyed the chair, thinking it might make a unique item for Butera’s Banana Factory restaurant, in Bradenton.
A pair of glass birdcages are $3,500 each, finches included. Moulton was working at the Colony restaurant decades ago when her father told her to expect a delivery. The cages arrived that day and the finches arrived the next day with instructions that they should have 12 hours of light, 12 hours of darkness.
But Klauber insisted that the birds would work when staff worked, therefore, the birds wouldn’t get their full 12 hours of darkness — yet the birds seemed to thrive.
Some of Thursday’s shoppers were simply seeking a bargain. There were people such as Bradenton resident Glen Thompson, who checked out chain saws and lawnmowers, and Longboat Key firefighter/paramedic Brandon Desch, who didn’t find the bar beverage guns he was looking for and instead set his sights on a weight rack from the fitness center.
Many were business owners. One of Thursday morning’s biggest sales was a $2,000 refrigerator purchased by a man who planned to open a restaurant locally, Long said.
Moulton said that she and her family are happy that the kitchen equipment can be put to use.
“This is the kind of equipment that needs to be in use,” she said. “Local restaurateurs have limited budgets, and if they can use these things, we are happy about that.”
Longboat Key resident Sandy Dearwester, who enjoyed eating shrimp cocktail on the restaurant patio and was there in August for the last hurrah held at the Colony the night that it closed, paid $5 for a “Best of 2006” cover of Sarasota magazine that featured the Colony Dining Room.
“It’s sad,” she said. “I wanted to pick up a piece of memorabilia.”
Sarasota resident Terry Ryan bought the bronzed David that hung on the door of the men’s room for $15.
She planned to hang it on the door of her own bathroom at home.
Chicago resident Kathleen Schaffer bought a box full of kitchen utensils, an umbrella holder and a champagne bucket. The items will remind her of the many dinners she ate at the Colony, beginning with her honeymoon in 1983.
“I’ve drunk many bottles of champagne here,” she said.
Longboat Key residents and wine connoisseurs Ryan Heers and Elijah Benioni wanted to convert a room in their Bayou in Bay Isles home to a wine cellar. They sought quotes for their plan but were told that shelving alone could cost as much as $1,500. But after learning about the Colony liquidation sale, they headed straight to Tastebuds Gourmet Market Thursday morning and got everything they needed for approximately $1,000. They worked for three days straight and completed their wine cellar — which they have named the Bayou Bordeaux — Sunday.