News for the Hospitality Executive
|By Maureen Wallenfang, The Post-Crescent, Appleton, Wis.
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Jan. 9, 2004 - APPLETON, Wis. -- So just how posh is this place, anyway?
The new $9 million CopperLeaf, the first hotel to open downtown in 22 years, debuts Monday with details that range from simple to sublime.
Every guest room, for example, is outfitted with Frette bed linens, including high-quality, 300-thread count Italian-made sheets that have to be ironed before every use. It's the same label favored by the Ritz in Paris.
All 73 rooms have whirlpool tubs.
Everything is wired to the nth degree. Guests with laptops can tap into the wireless high-speed access anywhere in the place. Rooms also have high-speed data port connections for those who have privacy concerns with wireless technology.
Each room has DVD/ CD/VCR players, HBO and cordless phones.
The 20 highest-end rooms have 30-inch LCD flat-panel TVs and gas fireplaces that turn on with the click of a remote control.
And the entire place is smoke-free, top to bottom.
Its owners hope the CopperLeaf will not only find an audience with business travelers, young singles, newly married couples and empty nesters, but that it will be recognized as the upscale, sophisticated hotel in town.
"We'd love to attain a four-diamond rating," said Rich Batley, operating partner, referring to the AAA designation used for refined, stylish inns. "There are only five in the state."
"It's turning out better than I expected," said developer John Pfefferle, managing partner for Fox Cities Hotel Investors, the all-local group of business leaders that owns the hotel. "I'm extremely pleased with the decorating and the quality of the space."
It is a far cry from what he envisioned almost four years ago, when he and builder Paul Hoffman bought the former J.C. Penney, a structure on the site. Hoffman's family built it in 1957, and after serving as a department store for nearly three decades, it stood vacant for more than 20 years. After several false starts at revitalizing the building as office space, they realized "it was too difficult to renovate and we had to tear it down," Pfefferle said.
Demolition took place in July 2002. The hotel cleared its hurdles that December and construction started in spring 2003.
Besides Pfefferle, Hoffman and Batley, the hotel's ownership group includes Jim Geerts, Bob Steidl and Leon Vanden Heuvel.
The CopperLeaf is situated across the street from the veteran Radisson Paper Valley Hotel, a 390-room competitor whose executives voiced initial opposition to the newcomer getting tax incremental financing funds. They said the market was saturated and didn't need the new entry.
While Paper Valley general manager Jay Schumerth admits the boutique hotel could siphon off some weekday business travelers and weekend adult leisure customers, he now says his aggressive sales strategies will mitigate the number of affected rooms.
"Meetings and conventions are a large part of our business, and that component wouldn't be threatened," he added. "Competition is not always bad. It will keep us on our toes. We'll be fine."
Schumerth said there will be occasions when the two competitors will actually need each other.
"We have a good open relationship and I expect we can move forward with some degree of synergy," he said.
CopperLeaf executives agree that a good-neighbor policy is best. "We need to work together for the benefit of both," Batley said.
"We've taken hundreds of reservations and haven't even opened," said Hoffman. "It's an indication that we found the right niche for downtown."
Bookings so far also include blocks for meetings and weddings, said Cheryl Zaug Casey, general manager, though she doesn't consider any date sold out. They've booked parties as far out as spring of 2005, but haven't chased business. "We haven't been as aggressive as we will be in the future," she said.
The CopperLeaf's concept is a different entity in the Appleton area. It's called a boutique hotel, which some mistakenly believe means it has clothing boutiques in the lobby. It doesn't.
The designation is something that even Jim Holperin, secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Tourism, hopes to define more precisely when he attends the hotel's ribbon cutting Monday.
"What that means, exactly, I'm eager to learn," he said. "I've watched its evolution. It will be interesting to see the finished product."
"Boutique" in this context means the hotel is unique and intimate, unlike chain hotels that pride themselves on uniformity and a corporate look.
In public and private spaces, the CopperLeaf's artwork, furniture and color schemes vary room to room and floor to floor, keying into warm woods, multi-textured materials, granite, leaf patterns and colors like sage, mocha and tangerine.
Guest room furnishings have a modern Mission style contrasted with overstuffed chairs and down comforters. The lobby has a vintage, living room feel, with custom-designed alabaster-look lighting fixtures and three miles of wood trim.
"It's got enough pop so it's not vanilla, like many hotels," Batley said.
Creature comforts also count toward the "boutique experience." Besides luxury sheets which completely enclose the blankets so guests don't have to touch a communal blanket surface, rooms are stocked with bathrobes, umbrellas, microwaves, refrigerators, honor bars, irons, ironing boards, hairdryers, Aveda bath products and in-room safes that will fit laptops. Cups and silverware are real rather than disposable.
"We're trying to do things you'd find in a bed and breakfast," Batley said.
"The ultimate compliment was one I heard the other day from someone who stepped into the lobby and said, 'I don't feel like I'm in a hotel,'" Hoffman said. "That's the essence of what we're trying to accomplish. It's a special, warm, inviting place where you can feel at home."
Mature amenities In the hotel's basement, a fitness center appointed with commercial-grade equipment and a 14-person whirlpool will be joined in several months by a day spa, which is still under construction.
A full-service, fine dining restaurant -- also under construction and expected to be named Monday -- should open by early February. It's adjacent to the hotel's west side. Conference rooms can handle 10 to 84 people, while a nearby mezzanine lounge used to serve guests complimentary continental breakfasts can be utilized for small private receptions. The lobby bar is open to guests and the public.
The entire facility is geared toward adults rather than families with kids.
"We have HBO, not Nintendo. We have a whirlpool and fitness spa, but not a game room or pool," Casey said. "We've made choices that cater to adults."
Casey said that in ordering materials for the hotel, she turned to local resources as much as possible. Area suppliers include Kimberly-Clark Corp., Fox River Paper, Victor Allen's Coffee, Vande Walle's and local artists and galleries, including Coventry Glassworks and Avenue Art.
IF YOU GO
--Address: 300 W. College Ave., Appleton
--Web site: www.copperleafhotel.com
--Phone: 920-749-0303 or 877-303-0303
--Room rates: Generally $129 to $199, though higher during peak demand and lower during promotions. Special opening rates through Feb. 12 run $99 to $139.
--Employees: 25 full- and part-timers, more when the spa and restaurant open
"We will plan a large grand opening in February, when the restaurant is open, and we'll have additional open houses," said Cheryl Zaug Casey, general manager of the new $9 million CopperLeaf opening Monday. "But people are always welcome to stop in, walk through the lobby and see a room, if one is available."
While meeting rooms and the mezzanine lounge may be occupied by private functions, the lobby bar is open to the public. The hotel's adjacent restaurant, opening in February, also will be open to the public.
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(c) 2004, The Post-Crescent, Appleton, Wis. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News.