Dallas/Fort Worth Terminal D Businesses Prepare for Opening

After three quiet months of waiting, concessionaires in Terminal D at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport are sweeping away frustrations and building up their staffs for a Saturday opening.

Many say they've been stung by lost income because of the absence of American Airlines at the north end of the terminal. American's arrival was delayed to allow more time for testing the terminal's baggage system.

But concessionaires say they are excited about the potential for big business that American can bring when it fills the terminal with two-thirds of the expected passenger traffic.

"We've been very frustrated with all the delays," said Rob Goldblatt, who has pushed back the opening of his Reata Grill for about 10 days to better gauge the crowds at the terminal. "I think that it is a little unknown as far as what the traffic will be. We know it's not going to be what it will be in the future."

Jeff Payne, a partner in the new Cousin's Bar-B-Q restaurant in the north end, said he's counting on about 17,000 people daily to go through the terminal for departures.

That's based on an average of 200 people per plane and 84 departing flights. He hopes to capture about 5 percent of that crowd.

"If I can get 1,000 people a day, this will be the best store in our chain," said Payne, whose family runs four other Cousin's Bar-B-Q restaurants in the Metroplex.

American plans to start with about 78 departures and ramp up to 114 within four to five months.

Operating out of 19 of the terminal's 28 gates, the Fort Worth-based airline expects to add 12,000 to 15,000 passengers to the 4,200 going through the terminal now. Six foreign-flag carriers have been operating from nine gates in the south end.

There are 63 concession spots. For the most part, those on the north end have remained closed while businesses on the south end have been open.

Many of the concessionaires, such as InMotion Entertainment, are making their D/FW debut Saturday.

Barney Freedman, co-founder of InMotion, has high hopes for the two stores. The Jacksonville, Fla., chain has 50 stores and kiosks in 39 other airports. InMotion rents DVD players and movies and sells portable electronic gadgets for travelers.

A large kiosk will open Saturday on the north side, and a larger store will open about a week later on the opposite end of the terminal.

"We think D/FW will end up being one of our top three locations in the company," said Freedman, whose top two spots are at airports in Atlanta and Chicago. "The terminal is a great, retail-friendly terminal."

Nancy Lopez McWilliams hopes that her fourth McDonald's restaurant at the airport will be her highest-revenue location.

The fast-food outlet opened quietly Oct. 21 on the north end, mainly to give employees a chance to get comfortable on the job, McWilliams said.

The McDonald's will have a couple of unique children's touches: a 225-square-foot PlayPlace -- something no other McDonald's airport restaurant has -- and a custom-made 9-foot-long red Ronald McDonald shoe.

"Sure I would have loved to open a couple months ago, but we're OK," she said. "I think, long term, it's going to be a fantastic place."

Payne said the biggest pinch on him has been paying $2,500 a week for the past three months to keep some of his managers on the payroll. Payne, who spent $40,000 more than originally expected to build his $500,000 restaurant, said he weathered the financial storm. But he fears others won't be so lucky.

"There's some people that are going to bankrupt over this deal," he said, declining to give names. "There are some people really suffering. It was a lot of money to lay out there."

To help the concessionaires, D/FW agreed to waive rent for the months they weren't open and will only require a percentage of sales as their rent payment.

Concessionaires said they've bonded over their shared difficulties.

"We see each other every day," said Goldblatt, chief operating officer of FGR Food Corp., which in addition to the new Reata Grill runs eight Au Bon Pain bakeries at the airport.

"We've got no one else to talk to. We talk about these problems."

Fort Worth Star Telegram

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