Around Town: John Rupp Honored, a Big Bid for Fhima’s
John Rupp, a St. Paul-based real estate developer and owner of the Commonwealth Properties, was one of four individuals receiving a 2019 Progress Minnesota award on April 17 at an event sponsored by the Finance & Commerce business newspaper, which annually highlights individuals and companies moving the Minnesota economy forward in innovative ways. Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz declared April 17 “Progress Day” in Minnesota.
Over the past 40 years, Rupp has built a multi-faceted real estate and hospitality company by taking business cues from historic buildings and places in Minnesota and Wisconsin. “History can be a treasure chest for discovering new business opportunities,” Rupp said.
Included in the Commonwealth portfolio are W.A. Frost in the Cathedral Hill area of St. Paul; the Commodore Bar & Restaurant with roots extending back to the Jazz Age; and The Davidson, an eight-unit hotel tucked inside a former Summit Avenue residence known as the Davidson Mansion. It’s scheduled to open this spring.
Two other Commonwealth Properties, The Saint Paul Athletic Club and the Hotel 340, share quarters in downtown St. Paul. Rupp saved it from the wrecking ball, refurbishing the entire building, which was designed by Alan Stem, the designer of Grand Central Station in New York City. He turned Stout’s Island Resort into a favorite wedding and family vacation venue situated on an island in the middle of Red Cedar Lake in western Wisconsin. A Chicago lumber baron originally established Stout’s Island as a summer retreat for family and friends during the Gilded Age.
His latest venture is remaking a historic Catholic girls school into a public/private resort and event center on 3,000 acres overlooking Lake Pepin on the Mississippi River. Villa Maria will be open for weddings and private events in 2019, with lodging and other hospitality elements to be added in 2020. The building is the original Villa Maria Academy, a school established by an order of Catholic nuns, the Ursuline Sisters, in the 1890s.
A four-course chef’s tasting at Fhima’s Minneapolis for 10 was auctioned off for $27,000 at the Children’s Cancer Research Fund’s Dream Maker fundraiser April 27. Contrast this with the $14,000 winning bid for tickets to the Ellen Show, round-trip airfare, accommodations and dinner. A dinner at Spoon and Stable and one night at the Hewing Hotel was included with two tickets to the Garth Brooks concert—and yes, it was a bidding war to the end.
To counter the negative press on using plastic straws, QSR chain Bananas Smoothies & Frozen Yogurt is testing carrot straws for use in its smoothies and fresh-squeezed juices. The edible and environmentally friendly straw is still in the testing and planning stages, the company said in a release. But, while we like the innovation, I’m wondering what they’d give us to sip our iced tea with.