Disruptive apartment-like hospitality brand targets St. Pete

Disruptive apartment-like hospitality brand targets St. Pete

In the space between a hotel room and an apartment building lies a new brand: Mint House. Florida is a sizable growth opportunity, says its CEO.

A New York hospitality-tech company with a model that’s one part Airbnb, one part extended-stay hotel, seeks to make a mint in Florida, partially with a focus on St. Petersburg.

The company is called Mint House. Its strategy, officials say, is to combine "the best features of a private apartment (with a) premium hotel” for either short or long term rentals. The company, on its website, sells its concept this way: “Fed up with uneven vacation rentals and boxed-in hotel rooms, we set out to create something different and better: Mint House. We’ve ditched losable key cards, long lines, room service and other relics for the things we miss when we travel — kitchens, groceries, workout routines and the space to spread out.”

Mint says to do that, and make apartment renters, no matter the length of stay, feel like they are in a nice hotel, it offers perks like units with full-service kitchens; pre-arrival fridge stocking; and no-hassle keyless entry. The high-touch service can get highly-specific, too, down to putting your favorite potato chips on the counter and having the thermostat set to your desired temperature. No surprise, Mint has invested heavily in its app and tech side of the business to make this all happen. “Our guests don't want the big box hotel feel,” Mint House CEO Christian Lee says, “but they do want the consistent experience” you would get at a high-end hotel.

The market Mint generally targets, according to travel industry news site Skift, is “corporate workers who would otherwise stay at an ‘upper-upscale’ hotel brand such as W, Westin, or Omni.” Mint doesn’t own its properties, but instead manages the units for landlords and staffs the buildings. It currently manages 13 properties in 10 markets, including Miami and St. Pete. Outside Florida, Mint markets include Philadelphia, New York and Washington, D.C., in addition to Nashville, Denver and Greenville, South Carolina.

In St. Pete Mint manages a 100-unit building in the Edge District at 77 11th St. N. DevMar Development, the company initially behind the project, intended to build an 11-story boutique hotel on the site, dubbed The Metro, The pandemic caused construction delays and other challenges, which led the developer to scale back to a seven-story apartment building. DevMar sold the property to an entity called Metro St. Pete LLC for $28.2 million in early 2023, Pinellas County property records show. Metro St. Pete, with an address in California, according to a Florida Division of Corporation database, hired Mint House.

As Mint wraps up its first year in the Sunshine City, the company’s New York-based CEO, Lee, and its local market lead, Autumn Wegman, say the concept is doing well — with room to do even better. Occupancy, says Wegman, has been around 75% a night.

St. Pete is an exciting market for us,” says Lee in a recent virtual interview with the Business Observer. Lee was managing director of WeWork Asia, in Shanghai, and then CFO for WeWork, among other positions, before being named CEO of Mint House in March 2023. “There are a lot of reasons people are traveling there. There’s a lot going on there.”

Lee adds Mint’s model, to be in markets with “lots of apartments already there and where (we) can scale,” means more projects on the west coast of Florida could be on the horizon. “We continue to talk to landlords looking at new projects every day,” says Lee, head of M&A and a senior vice president at Time Warner Cable for eight years, prior to WeWork.

Mint was founded in 2017 and has since raised at least $80 million, according to Skift. Lee says outside the perks and technology, a key to Mint is that none of its properties look the same, which is a marked difference between the brand and a traditional hotel company. “When you go into a Mint, we don’t want you to feel like you’re in any generic building,” he says. “We want the feel and vibe of the local community.”

In St. Pete, Wegman says Mint does that by partnering with multiple local entities, like offering breakfast from nearby restaurant Bacon Bitch. Guests can get popcorn deliveries as well, Wegman says, and Mint House St. Pete is involved with local events, such as St. Pete Pride and the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Wegman says the property has even participated in St. Pete dance parties.

Rates at Mint House St. Pete range widely, mostly depending on size of room and length of stay. Staying a week in mid-April, for example, according to its booking website, can run from $230 a night for a 430-square-foot studio to $294 a night for the same unit, but poolside, to $308 for a corner studio with a sleeper that sleeps four. Under its Stay Awhile package, which lasts at least 28 days, rates are between $105 and $120 a night for those units.

Wegman, who has worked in hospitality in the Tampa and Sarasota markets for some 20 years, including most recently as an assistant GM with McKIbbon Hotel Management, joined Mint House last summer. She says customer education on what makes Mint House different is the biggest challenge. Lee says that’s similar in most other Mint markets, not only for guests but marketing to landlords that Mint House is a viable property management option.

The flip side is Mint has high net promoter and customer satisfaction scores. “Once people know us,” Wegman says, “they want to come back.”

By Mark Gordon 

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