Saudi royals spend money — a lot of it — in Rochester

By Matt Russell

Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

Fanning across the city in groups of four and five, members of the Saudi royal family have been a common sight around Rochester in recent days.

The royal family, which is in town because King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz is getting a checkup at Mayo Clinic, have been regulars at Chester’s in the Shops at University Square, drinking the restaurant’s finest wines and tipping generously.

"They’re super-nice people and they take really good care of the staff," said assistant general manager Nicci Sylvester. Saudi diners included the king himself, she said, as well as a prince who ate at the restaurant a few times.


At Apache Mall, Macy’s manager Eric Ofori-Atta said Saudi royals have shopped at the store three or four times over the last two weeks. The Saudi king’s sisters were apparently in Rochester for two weeks before the king arrived last weekend.

"Today has been a good day, but I can’t confirm how much they spent," Ofori-Atta said Tuesday. "It’s been good for our store and good for our community here — they spend money."

Elsewhere in the mall, New York & Company employee Tammy Figueroa said a group of five Saudi women, including a woman who appeared to have high standing in the royal family, spent around 45 minutes shopping Monday night, staying at the store after hours as they completed their purchases.

"They just shopped around and pretty much cleaned us out," Figueroa said. "They were very nice people, and very fun, too. We laughed a lot."

At Chardonnay restaurant, owner Mark Weimer said four members of the Saudi royal family inspected his establishment closely Saturday night as they decided whether to stay.

"People were checking to see if the silver was good enough quality," Weimer said.

The forks and knives passed inspection, he said, and the group sat down for a meal.

At the Shops at University Square, stores getting business from the Saudi royal family included Sopra Sotto, Chico’s and The Nordic Shop, according to employees.


"I would say they’ve been pretty much everywhere downtown," said Walter Hanson, who owns The Nordic Shop.

In business since 1974 in downtown Rochester, Hanson seemed unfazed by the Saudis’ visit, saying that over the years he’s seen leaders from around the world pass through downtown stores time and time again.

At the same time, Weimer also didn’t seem surprised his silver passed muster: His upscale restaurant has a history of drawing high-profile Mayo patients, including a recent visit by Iraqi president Jalal Talabani.

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