AUGUSTA — Though Maine’s trees are nearly bare, a set of autumn-themed waiting room chairs with patterns of changed leaves left behind after MaineGeneral Medical Center’s move to north Augusta still caught Dr. Norman Dinerman’s eye.
So on Saturday, at a public sale of furnishings at the old hospital building on East Chestnut Street, he lugged them to the lobby.
Dinerman wasn’t making the final decision, however. After all, he had come to get chairs for his wife’s knitting shop and studio, in a building near their home in Glenburn, just northwest of Bangor.
So before paying, he took a picture of the chairs, $20 apiece, with his iPhone and sent it to his wife for her approval. Apparently, she didn’t mind the seasonal pattern, even if fall is now almost over.
“The key issue is I checked it out,” said Dinerman, the medical director for LifeFlight of Maine. “Otherwise, I’m going to be parked on the side of the road selling chairs for 10 bucks apiece. It’ll supplement my day job.”
Originally planned to be open to the public for two days, after a hospital employee-only day Friday, the Sunday sale was canceled following a higher-than-expected turnout on Saturday.
The sale was a rare opportunity for bargain hunters. After all, a hospital doesn’t close every day.
MaineGeneral left Augusta’s east side when it opened its new location, an $312-million building on Old Belgrade Road, on Nov. 9. A hospital spokeswoman said earlier this week that some furnishings were moved to the new hospital and the Thayer Campus in Waterville, while some went to nonprofits.
Left forsaken and for sale at the old hospital were dated waiting room furniture, physician scales, wall art, lamps, display cases, desks and other miscellany. One room had a few commodes.
“I think people come here because they know they can get things they’ve been wanting to get at cheap prices and then some,” said Kylen Cieslak, director of buyer development for Centurion Service Group, the Chicago-based company running the sale.
Just before 11 a.m. — less than three hours after the sale opened — Cieslak estimated that 1,000 items had been sold. Shoppers could roam four floors seeking deals, and at peak times they struggled to wheel items down hallways crammed with people and merchandise, into elevators and down to the lobby, where they paid and exited through one jammed door.
The sale was cash and carry, with no holding of merchandise. Shoppers had to haul everything off themselves. By its end Saturday, the hospital chose to cancel the second day of the sale on Sunday and donate the goods left to charity because turnout was higher than expected, Cielsak said.
On Saturday, it drew a crowd of people shopping for their homes — such as Victoria Oakes, of Portland, a first-year student at the University of New England in Biddeford, picking up a cushy green chair for her dormitory — and people shopping for businesses.
Paul Marcotte, of Chelsea, who runs a business selling new, used and custom-built store fixtures, was looking for quick money-makers. He took two wooden display cases off the wall.
“I could clean it, but I’ve got a 15,000-square foot warehouse that’s dusty and dirty, so I could clean it today and it’d be dirty tomorrow,” he said of the larger one, priced at $20.
Marcotte said he would build something similar new for clients for $150, but he doesn’t want the hospital case to sit around in his warehouse, so he said he would price it for $40 and sell it fast.
Rachel Bernier, owner of D R Designs, was part of a group picking up furniture, including desks, a chair and bookcases for her screenprinting business’s new office, moving across the town line from Winthrop to Manchester.
“We’ve got a whole trailer full already,” she said.
Chris Markos, financial advisor at Choice Investments in Oakland, said his company is moving to a bigger office, so he and his boss were hoping to come away with many of the furnishings to flesh it out. They were looking for file cabinets but found them overpriced, so they ended up getting a host of items, including a conference room table, waiting room chairs and a desk.
“We hunted around quite a bit to find these, but if you find decent stuff, it’s worth it,” Markos said.