Jolene John and her family arrived Wednesday evening in Atlantic City from Philadelphia and booked a room at Caesars.
And Thursday morning, they wasted no time before hitting the main attraction of the day.
“We got up this morning, had coffee, and came right to the Taj,” she said.
She was among hundreds who poured into Atlantic City’s Trump Taj Mahal on Thursday for the start of a 60-day “liquidation sale.” The sale will clear the former hotel casino of its contents before it is gutted to make way for a Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.
On the 46th floor of the Taj, around noon, John pushed a large piece of patio furniture through the hallway and toward the elevators. Her son waited outside with a flatbed truck, where John would load the furniture and several other items she planned to purchase and decorate her home with in North Philadelphia.
Outside, hundreds more were gathered, waiting to be let in. Inside, the lines in front of the cashiers grew long. Those waiting in line inside the main lobby were clutching an assortment of gaudy bric-a-brac — lamps (around $12), chairs ($38), paintings, mirrors ($20), old televisions (about $50), marble trash cans.
Bargains for some, keepsakes for others, all pieces of the shuttered hotel-casino on the Boardwalk that is being emptied out for its next owners and next act.
The Taj opened in 1990 and closed for good last October. The closure, which made the casino the fifth in Atlantic City to shut down since 2014, followed two years of acrimony between the union and billionaire owner Carl Icahn. They failed to reach agreement over health-care benefits for about 1,000 members of UNITE Here Local 54, representing cocktail servers, housekeepers, and other employees.
Icahn had taken possession of the Taj Mahal out of bankruptcy court. Donald Trump has not been materially involved in about seven years, other than allowing his name to be used.
Hard Rock International bought the casino for a reported $50 million earlier this year and plans to spend hundreds of millions more on renovating it.
Floors 46 to 50 were open to visitors Thursday, with furniture and other items available for purchase inside each of the rooms.
Don Hayes, president of National Content Liquidators, the company overseeing the sale of the Taj’s contents, said other floors will be opened to shoppers soon as these floors are cleared out. He said he expects the sale to last the entire 60 days.
There were also items on sale on the main floor — everything except anything with the name “Trump” on it. A National Content representative said that by the time the firm entered the picture, all of the items with the Trump name on it had been removed.
Hundreds waited outside, anxious for their chance to get inside, as the sale began just after 10 a.m.
“As you can see, it’s pretty busy,” Hayes said. “And we’re just now getting started.”
Among those who had made it inside was Marc Maahs, 55, of Philadelphia. He was purchasing several lamps and a wall piece. Maahs was a frequent visitor to the Taj, from the year it opened to the year it closed.
The lamps he was buying were from a room on the 50th floor that he often stayed in. He was buying memories, he said.
“It’s bittersweet,” he said, “but the Hard Rock is going to bring new memories.”
In addition to those visiting from out of town, locals also could be found throughout the Taj on Thursday. Teresa Coyle, 61, of Brigantine, worked at the casino for three years before it closed. She bought pictures, furniture, and ice buckets.
“I just wanted a few mementos,” she said.
Lapell Chapman, 39, of Atlantic City, was waiting in line in the morning to buy a piece of video equipment that he found in the casino’s poker room.
Chapman said he was intrigued by the liquidation sale, but added that he was looking forward to the Taj’s transformation into a Hard Rock.
“People need jobs,” he said. “As soon as they can finish this project, I think it’ll be good for the city.”