Hospitality Design - July 2011 - 108
James and Ben Graves
Graves World Hospitality, St. Cloud, Minnesota
No working partnership with the ﬁnancing and architects,” says James of the three year-long project. Ben, meanwhile, moved into a Williamsburg apartment to gauge ﬁrst-hand the neighborhood’s cultural and economic pulse. The ﬁnal result is an urban resort complete with a rooftop pool lounge, market-driven restaurant, and even a signature house beer by Brooklyn Brewery. “Our goal wasn’t to create some totally outof-the-box hotel, but to capture existing demand,” Ben says. “We like to listen and respond to markets rather than force them to evolve.” The younger Graves’ measured, moderate approach comes from a literal lifetime surrounded by the family business. There were childhood trips to development meetings and projects sites; “perhaps because I was the ﬁrst-born I was always involved, the company was always in my blood,” Ben says. Still, formally joining the family business wasn’t always a given. Indeed, it wasn’t until after college—where he studied business and communications—that Ben ﬁnally heeded his father’s call to join the company. “It ultimately felt like the best option,” he says. As they gear up to debut Hotel Williamsburg—along with two additional Manhattan properties and a Costa Rican resort still in development—Graves World Hospitality is clearly one father-andson operation where each generation thrives off the other. “Of course business isn’t everything in our lives, but it is certainly part of everything,” James muses. “It’s part of the fabric of who we are. It might drive our spouses crazy, but we can never really turn it off.” hd is more potentially fraught with pitfalls than that between father and son. But for Graves World Hospitality’s James and Ben Graves, the arrangement has helped to quietly transform the company into an emerging design leader in both the Midwest and the East Coast. “Our relationship works because we allow each of our skill sets to complement the other,” says CEO James, who founded the St. Cloud, Minnesotabased company back in 1970. “Ben’s focus is on the design and operations side of things while I am kind of the development and big-picture guy.” Although best known for managing and marketing some 500 hotels in 70 countries, the Graves—both the company and family—entered a far higher-proﬁle hospitality arena with the launch of the Graves Hotels Resorts brand in 2006. Its ﬂagship, the 255-room Graves 601 Hotel Minneapolis, quickly established itself as the city’s ﬁrst “design-destination” hotel thanks to a design team led by Ben with interiors by Toronto-based Yabu Pushelberg. Now that proﬁle will be stretched even higher with the arrival of Hotel Williamsburg, the Graves’ ﬁrst New York City property opening in the super-hip Brooklyn district this summer. The bijoux, 64-room new-build may feature interiors by Manhattan-based Studio Gaia, but the conception, development and execution are pure James and Ben. “Early on I took the lead
Clockwise from top left: Cosmos restaurant and the lobby at Graves 601 Hotel Minneapolis; a rendering of the Hotel Williamsburg, set to open in August in Brooklyn; and James and Ben Graves.