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If you want Pere Marquette memorabilia, act fast

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You know the phrase, "you snooze, you lose?" My wife and I lived it Friday when we went to check out the liquidation sale at the Hotel Pere Marquette.

Each of us spotted something we though we'd like to buy, but then we hesitated. We when decided to do it, it was took late, the items was gone.

In my wife's case it was a matter of minutes; she spotted a striped wing-back chair that was in great shape she thought would look great in a room of our house. But she decided to shop around a little more first and when she returned, the chair was gone.

For me it was a portable bar, solidly made out of what I think was oak, with a brass foot rail around the bottom. It was going to look perfect in the room with my pool table. Now, it will look nice in somebody else's house because I didn't snatch it up when I first had the chance.

That's pretty much the way it's going to be over the next couple weeks, if the liquidation sale takes that long.

EM Properties Ltd., the Pere Marquette's new owner, didn't even advertise that the liquidation sale was going to start Friday except to tell the media that were writing stories about the fact the sale of the hotel was finally a done deal. And yet, when the sale started at 10 a.m. there already was a long line of people stretching from the Main Street entrance to the hotel to and around the corner of Main and Madison.

Employees of Mid American Salvage LLC, hired by EM Properties to handle the sale (including doing an inventory of everything in the hotel and setting the items in rooms to be pawed by the public) were busy answering questions, helping cart big items or replenishing.

When she heard somebody complain how picked over everything already was by 1 p.m., Jane Pushee, the sale manager, said, "This isn't everything, you know. We still have seven floors of stuff to bring downstairs."

I don't what is left to come downstairs but what was already there on Friday was heading out the door pretty quickly. Not all of it was in great condition, but there were bargains galore.

The hundred or so televisions, many of them 32- and 42-inch flat screen TVs, were gone within the first two hours. They went for $200 or less.  

Leather couches selling for $400 or less went quickly, as did many of the chairs and dressers and tables and mini-refrigerators that were stacked in the Grand Ballroom. Most of them had some obvious wear on them but still looked in good shape.  

Paintings from the myriad walls in the hotel were selling fast, as were large and heavy mirrors going for $50 or less.

The hundreds of lamps were already pretty picked over, as well, but Sue and I were able to find a pair that will look great in our living room, once we buy new shades for them. The lamps are made of iron or something; all I know is that they are heavy. My arms still ache because I carried them around for 40 minutes, one in each arm.

I saw very few people without something in their hands, even if it was just something for $1 that said Hotel Pere Marquette on it.

Of course, most items that had the hotel's name on them somewhere were snatched up. That was to be expected; the Hotel Pere Marquette holds a lot of good memories for people.

That includes my wife and me; we spent our wedding night in the Presidential Suite. Alas, the items being sold from that suite were either too large for our modest house or too expensive. In some cases, both. That includes the entire bedroom set from the Presidential Suite, huge pieces of furniture being sold as a set only for $3,500. Somebody will buy it, considering some of the famous people who used that furniture through the last 85 years.

Alicia Ruemelin, head of marketing for EM Properties, said she believes there were people there just bargain hunting but that many also felt some nostalgia for the grand old hotel and wanted something from there before it goes through a major overhaul over the next year.

"There was one guy in particular that I saw buying only stuff that had the Pere Marquette name on it, or maybe Carnegies (the hotel restaurant) or that was connected to the hotel in some other way. You could just tell by what they bought that some people just wanted something out of nostalgia," she said.

Ruemelin said she was not surprised by the turnout on the first day of the liquidation sale even though it had not been formally advertised. She said Jane Pushee of Mid American Salvaga also handled the liquidation sale of items from the former Jumer's Castle Lodge and talked of the crowds that showed for that event.

"We knew word would get out pretty quick that the sale was starting today (Friday), so we were not really surprised there was a long line when the doors were unlocked. It was really nice to see," she said. "I think everybody found bargains they were really expecting."

The sale could last up to 18 days as it is scheduled to end no later than April 30. Ruemelin said EM Properties President Gary Matthews hopes it won't last that long so that renovation work on the hotel can get started as soon as possible.

Matthews was walking around talking with people on Friday but I didn't see him buying anything.

Oh wait, he already bought it all on Thursday. I didn't get the chance to ask him if he kept anything for himself and his wife Rocio.

Paul Gordon is editor of The Peorian. He can be reached at 692-7880 or editor@thepeorian.com

About the Author
Paul Gordon is the editor of The Peorian after spending 29 years of indentured servitude at the Peoria Journal Star. He’s an award-winning writer, raconteur and song-and-dance man. He also went to a high school whose team name is the Alices (that’s Vincennes Lincoln High School in Indiana; you can look it up).