Travelers got the first taste of Spokane International Airport's improved dining options when new restaurants opened in the main terminal's rotunda.
This week it's the shoppers' turn, when an Auntie's Bookstore, Simply Northwest gift shop and newsstand debut.
The $18 million in terminal improvements give air travelers more options and reflect the trend in airport concessions - placing increased emphasis on local companies offering a more interesting and personal touch to what was once the generic airport experience in cities across the country.
"We feel strongly that the airport really does provide that first and last impression," said Spokane Airport Board Chairman Dave Brukardt. "It's the doorstep to our region."
More than 3.2 million people fly in or out of Spokane International each year, with about 140 daily arrivals and departures.
David's Pizza, Craven's Coffee, Northern Lights and Coeur d'Alene Brewing Co. are well-known local companies being featured at the airport.
"Travelers want to sample the local tastes of the city," said Rana Florida, spokeswoman for HMS Host.
HMS Host also launched a new concept at Spokane International called Vintage Washington. The casual dining restaurant has a full bar in one section and a wine bar featuring Washington wineries in another. Wines include offerings from Townshend, Mountain Dome and Arbor Crest.
HMS Host since has opened a Vintage Washington at Sea-Tac and plans to expand the concept to other airports, said Florida.
National chains aren't entirely left out, however. Quizno's and Chili's, now open in the rotunda, are names that travelers from across the country will recognize. Starbucks opens in the rotunda Jan. 22, with another location opening later in the C Concourse.
Starbucks was the most requested company during airport research prior to the project, said Leisa Kosanke, airport marketing manager.
The retail and food changes, coupled with a revamped security screening area in the main terminal, have given the airport an updated, brighter look.
The new shops and restaurants also employ 180 people - almost double the number working in the old stores and eateries.
Airport newsstands will still offer standard souvenir fare - postcards, magnets, T-shirts and such - but when it opens this week, Simply Northwest will sell more uniquely local gifts, like those at its Spokane Valley store.
"It's not the stuff you find in every airport in the United States," said Simply Northwest owner De Scott.
She buys from local craftspeople who make birdhouses, rock-encrusted candles and frames, and more.
Scott said opening a shop at the airport is an amazing opportunity. "I actually thought it was too good to be true, so I said, 'Thank you very much, but I'm not interested,' " she said of her first contact with airport retail concessionaire The Paradies Shops.
After Paradies representatives visited her store and asked again, however, Scott signed up.
Auntie's Bookstore will feature a Craven's coffee bar in the back, with excellent views of runways.
It will mainly offer best-sellers but also books by local and regional authors, said Auntie's owner Chris O'Harra, who won't own the airport store and has turned operations over to The Paradies Shops.
"They wanted to use our name, which was a compliment to us," O'Harra said, adding that she and her staff will help when it comes to choosing authors. "They have a lot of stores, so they're on top of things."
The airport, HMS Host and The Paradies Shops are sharing the $18 million cost of the improvements.
In addition to appealing to Spokane visitors, the changes should also appeal to area residents, said Scott.
"When people come home from a trip, they'll say, 'There's Simply Northwest. There's Craven's Coffee. There's Auntie's Bookstore. We're home.' "
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