San Francisco-based Kimpton Hotels will officially inaugurate the remodeled Grand Hotel Minneapolis on Thursday when Kimpton President Niki Leondakis arrives for a 51-cork champagne salute (for the 51st Kimpton property).

Leondakis said Kimpton spent about $6 million updating the lobby and rooms of the 14-story landmark that once was the Minneapolis Athletic Club.

"Minneapolis is a great market for us," Leondakis said. "This gives us a stronger presence in the Midwest. We have four hotels in the Chicago area and we're heavy in New York, Washington, D.C., Boston and San Francisco. But not a lot in the Midwest. There is a nice combination of business and leisure travel between Minneapolis and those other cities. Our overall expansion plan for Kimpton in the U.S. ... is to add five to eight new hotels each year through management contracts such as this and through our own private fund investments."

The 140-room Grand was acquired by Pebblebrook Hotel Trust last fall for $33 million after former owner Jeff Wirth deeded it back to his lender.

Wirth bought the old Minneapolis Athletic Club more than a decade ago for $5 million and invested more than $50 million in converting it to the Grand. He opened it as a high-end boutique hotel in 2000 that catered to celebrities and professional athletes and anybody else willing to pay up to a few thousand bucks a night for the presidential suite.

"Our objective [in the remodel] was to retain the roots and the grounding of the hotel and its rich history and tradition, but add a more contemporary flair to the furnishings and accessories and some updated influences with the decor," Leondakis said. "A nice juxtaposition of traditional and contemporary. A little more playfulness and whimsy, which is one of the hallmarks of our brand. The guest rooms are a little crisper, with a cleaner, more updated look."

Kimpton guests will continue to have access to the adjacent Minneapolis Life Time Athletic Club.

And it bills itself as one of the greenest hotel chains through the EarthCare program that includes water conservation, recycling of phones and batteries, green cleaning products and more. Kimpton also touts its progressive tilt and its embracement of the gay community; it was the first hotel in America to win a 100 percent score on the Corporate Equality Index from the Human Rights Campaign Foundation.

The high-end hotel will compete downtown with the likes of Westin, the Ivy and Graves 601.  

The rack rate for rooms starts at $299 per night.


Doing good may not always be good for business, particularly if you're running a high-end brand, according to new research from the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management that's being published soon in the Journal of Consumer Research.

Carlos Torelli, an assistant professor of marketing, found that touting good works in connection with luxury, "self-enhancing" brands such as BMW and Rolex and expensive champagne causes mixed messages for consumers.

"When people see brands advertised, they implicitly bring to mind abstract meanings," Torelli said. "With BMW, for example, people think status and self-enhancement. When all of a sudden people see a message that communicates pro-social things about BMW, they feel a disconnect .... If you're not associated with self-enhancement, then you are fine."

It's a good thing for Target and General Mills that they don't sell Mercedes-Benzes.

Torelli, lead author of a study called "Doing Poorly by Doing Good: Corporate Social Responsibility and Brand Concepts," said this motivational conflict is triggered by the simultaneous activation of "self-enhancement and self-transcendence values" and a flash of "disfluency." Something does not feel right.

Hats off to:

•More than 300 employees of Edina-based Nash Finch who spent Thursday at 17 Twin Cities nonprofits. They included Bridge for Youth (, Catholic Charities (, Hope for the City ( and Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity (

•Women business leaders and others who picked up hammers and saws to help a single mother build her Habitat for Humanity House in West St. Paul. The "Women Build" initiative later will work on a second home in Columbia Heights. Sponsors include Wells Fargo & Co., the Hugh J. Anderson Foundation, the Joyful Women Fund, Best Buy and Lowe's.

•Wells Fargo for being recognized by the United Way as the No. 1 largest corporate campaign in the country for the second consecutive year. In Minnesota, Wells Fargo employees last year pledged a record $5.8 million to nonprofit organizations and local schools, an increase of 35 percent over 2009. Volunteer-related hours rose 10 percent last year.