|By Katherine Yung, Detroit Free
PressMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Jun. 2, 2010--The Ritz-Carlton Dearborn will officially become the Henry on Thursday, joining Marriott International's Autograph Collection of independent hotels as it gains new owners.
Most of the luxury hotel's more than 200 employees will retain their jobs, said Vivian Deuschl, a spokeswoman for Ritz-Carlton, which is owned by Marriott. "This is likely to mean it will still be a place people will go for Sunday brunches and weddings," she said. "We're glad it's going to be staying within the Marriott family."
Last November, Marriott launched the Autograph Collection, describing it as a new brand of "upper upscale and luxury independent hotels with distinctive personalities." Including the Henry, nine U.S. hotels are joining the collection, including the Grand Bohemian Hotel in Asheville, N.C.; the Mansion on Forsyth Park in Savannah, Ga., and the Hotel Minneapolis.
Ritz-Carlton had confirmed in mid-April that after 21 years, the Ritz Dearborn was being sold to a group of investors outside Michigan and would no longer operate under the Ritz brand. Despite being the only Ritz-Carlton in Michigan, the hotel was hurt by the slowdown in business travel and new competitors in Detroit.
Today, the Ritz signs will be removed and a few of the hotel's employees, who are called ladies and gentlemen, plan to gather for a small ceremony this evening to lower the hotel's flag, said Tony Mira, the Ritz Dearborn's general manager. But otherwise, he said, "it's normal operations."
Thomas Conran, a principal at Greenwood Hospitality Group, which plans to operate the hotel for its new owners, said Tuesday that he could not yet discuss the changes.
For longtime Ritz devotees, the brand change marks the end of an era. "They just do things out of the ordinary," said Bill Kalmar, a former director of the Michigan Quality Council. He recalled the time when a Ritz Dearborn employee who usually served him high tea was on vacation but called in to make sure that her replacement would provide him with extra servings of the tea sandwiches that he loves.
Kalmar was one of many patients at Henry Ford Hospital who stayed at the hotel before and after their surgeries, thanks to a special program it offered. "It's going to be a sad day when the Ritz-Carlton closes," he said.
Contact KATHERINE YUNG: 313-222-8763 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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