“We’re happy it’s cold,” said Francine Mason of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau, pointing out the chilly local temperature of 32 degrees at 2:49 p.m. on Thursday.
In southern Florida, it was 72, she noted, looking up the info on one of several laptop computers set up inside the former bank building at the corner of Union Square East and 15th Street. She then pulled up an instant Web-cam image showing palm trees blowing in the breeze back in her hometown.
Ms. Mason & Co. are braving the wintery New York climate this week in order to attract more tourists to Ft. Lauderdale. “New York is our No. 1 market,” she said–adding, however, that “we have not completely tapped the New York market. We have a lot more people to go.”
To lure in the hold-outs, visitors-bureau workers are passing out free hand-warmers outside the fake-palm-tree-adorned bank building and inviting passersby to come inside for a glimpse at what they’re missing down South.
Folks who venture inside can register to win a trip to the Super Bowl, play a hole of mini-putt-putt, or go virtual fishing on the flat screen. Gals from Spa Chicks on the Go are also on, um, hand to massage people’s palms. And a bikini-clad model greets guests at the entrance.
It’s been marketed as the first-ever “pop-up store” for a tourist destination. The idea is the brainchild of the Florida agency’s local PR liaison, M. Silver Associates.
An M. Silver rep told The Observer that the bank building had been selected out of “easily 50 buildings,” including the now-vacant Wired Store in Soho.
“You can put a lot of people in here,” she said of the 3,200-square-foot space. The temporary venue is open through Jan. 16.
Not everyone on-hand was thrilled with the concept, however. “It’s a beautiful building,” said Laura, 20, a prospective Columbia student from Austin, Texas. “They could turn it into something better. It could be a nice luxury apartment building.”
– Chris Shott