Hell's Kitchen's owners are selling the business ... to their employees

The downtown restaurant is becoming 100 percent employee-owned.
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The owners of Minneapolis' Hell's Kitchen are selling up, but have found more than 100 people to take their place.

That's because as they head off into retirement at the end of the year, Cyn Gerdes and Steve Meyer are selling their restaurant to their employees.

Known for its spectacular Bloody Marys and house-made peanut butter, the downtown restaurant at 80 S. 9th St. will become 100 percent employee-owned starting January 1.

And it won't cost its current employees a thing, with Meyer and Gerdes creating a "Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP)" that lets them buy the business with future profits, rather than their own money.

Gerdes and Meyer founded Hell's Kitchen in 2002 alongside Gerdes' late husband Mitch Omer, who died in 2015.

It's managed to recover from near-extinction in 2017 after a "string of barely profitable years," Gerdes wrote on Facebook, and is now finding itself in ruder health.

This she puts down to her General Manager, Kjersti Granberg, and the restaurant's management team, who "grabbed the reigns of the company, worked their magic (and industry knowledge), and returned it to profitability almost immediately."

"Their work over the past 2 years has proven that 'the harder you work, the luckier you get,' and now Hell's Kitchen is financially healthy and thriving, not just because of these managers' efforts, but also because of the hard work our entire staff put in to bring us from the brink of insolvency to the solid position we're now in," she wrote.

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She said that rather than turning the restaurant over to "outsiders who might change our team or culture," they instead want to put it into the hands of their 143 loyal employees who have "supported us through thick and thin."

Cynthia Gerdes is also known in the Twin Cities for her former toy store chain, Creative Kidstuff, which she sold in 2013 to Regis founder Myron Kunin.

The company went into liquidation earlier this year, with all 6 stores closing.

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