The used alarm clock is blinking 9:10 p.m., but it’s really 10:42 on a Saturday morning, and we’re at Liquidation Pros, Inc.
I saw an ad for this business on Facebook that made me feel like I was in a hotel during remodeling, or some other time when I’m not supposed to be there. (I would say “in a hotel after hours,” but that’s pretty much the prime time to be in a hotel.) This photo—multiple sets of tables and chairs from a hotel dining nook stacked atop each other—had me sold on paying the place a visit.
I can’t put my finger on how this furniture immediately took me back to every self-serve waffle and glass of juice I’ve ever had at a continental breakfast. Was it the paleness of the wood? The unstainable upholstery on the chairs? But my interest was piqued. It had never occurred to me that I—a private individual! Regular ol’ me!—could buy furniture sourced from hotels and high-end resorts.
Owner Crystal Murillo-Magallanes says the business has a broad customer base. It runs the gamut between small businesses, Airbnbs and VRBOs that need to stock up on furniture, and students or snowbirds who need cheap, durable furniture for themselves.
Murillo-Magallanes got into the biz in late 2017. She met someone who’d been running a similar business for decades and thought it sounded interesting, but what gave her the final push to do it was someone telling her she couldn’t.
“It lit a fire under my butt,” she says.
It turned out to be lucrative. Murillo-Magallanes walks me through the items in a typical hotel room: bed set, nightstand, dresser, mini fridge, TV, desk, desk chair, lamps, mirrors, artwork, armchair, coffee tables. The desks and desk chairs, she says, were always the last thing in the inventory to go. Until the pandemic, that is.
“When 2020 hit, we stayed open as a necessity, because everyone was working from home, and I was trying everywhere to find more tables and chairs,” she says.
Desks for both kids and adults were getting snatched up as quickly as they came in, and table lamps were flying off the shelves. The same was true for 32-inch TVs that, while small for watching TV, made nice, spacious monitors for people building work-from-home setups on a budget. One person’s bust, as they say, is another person’s boom.
Picture all of the furniture and furnishings of a hotel room, and then multiply each item by 10, by 20, by 100. We all know when we stay in a standard hotel room that our room isn’t one of a kind, but seeing objects grouped this way—like with like, rather than into by-room clusters—is wonderfully eerie. Sometimes, hotel furniture is unmistakably hotel furniture. There’s that polyester fabric on the couches, or those continental breakfast chairs and tables that first caught my eye. There’s this one painting of four colorful quail walking in a row that I see dozens of throughout different rooms in the warehouse. It’s hard to imagine it anywhere other than here, or on the wall of a hotel or a dentist’s office.
But some of it, I’m realizing as I look at it in this strange and contextless place, could work well in a home. There are a few art-deco style chairs that I think would be a classy touch to a den, and a lamp shaped like a birdhouse that I can picture in my grandmother’s spare room. A large framed black and white nature print which, if it’s not an Ansel Adams, might as well be, is only $5.
It has some of the delight you might get from walking through a flea market or yard sale, like when I find a decorative brass avocado, or an enormous bin of fancy hangers. But it’s also got the unmatched thrill of practicality, sort of like going to an IKEA. A granite-topped entertainment center/cabinet for under $200? A sturdy lamp, bulb included, for just $15? Near irresistible.
Liquidation Pros gets new inventory in at least twice a month, sometimes more often. Murillo-Magallanes and her team often don’t know exactly what’s in a load until the last minute. Sometimes it’s a standard set of hotel room furniture. Once, it included a near-life-size portrait of an Arizona socialite. Other times it’s a new piece of furniture for the house where Murillo-Magallanes lives with her husband and three kids—when they aren’t holding down the fort at the store.
“Sometimes it’s like, ‘Dang, I didn’t know we were going to get those coffee tables. Can we switch them out with the ones we just moved?’” she says. “It’s like Christmas when we get another truck in.”