Business Booming at Charlotte Airport

New shops, restaurants and services are landing at Charlotte/Douglas International Airport, a sign that airport retail is strong despite the post-Sept. 11, 2001, shakeout, US Airways woes, high energy prices and other uncertainties.

Concessionaire HMSHost reported that the airport businesses it oversees at Charlotte/Douglas will gross an estimated $70 million this year. At least 10 percent goes to the airport. HMSHost's airport business tenants employ about 1,000 people.

Airport aviation director Jerry Orr said sales inside the terminal already are up about 16 percent this year compared with the same period last year, which he credits to an increased number of flights.

New storefronts include:

Yadkin Valley Wine Bar. This shop, which opened April 1 on the connector to the D and E concourses, showcases the wines of 10 N.C. vineyards. The Yadkin Valley association won a federal grant to help it open the bar as an effort to support the growing N.C. wine industry.

Jamba Juice. This smoothie maker, also on the D/E concourse connector, was rated in Restaurant News magazine one of the year's hottest concepts.

Forever Silver. This shop next to Jamba Juice, featuring trendy silver jewelry, aims at younger clientele. It's the third East Coast location for the company.

And the airport has several new arrivals coming soon:

You won't need a ticket to visit the latest Starbucks spot -- it'll be on the upper level, opposite the B security checkpoint. With the new addition, the airport will claim a total of six Starbucks outlets. "I'm not sure you can have too many Starbucks," Orr said.

The airport is in talks with Palm One to sell hand-held gadgets including Palm Pilots, Blackberries and iPods inside the terminal. A similar store inside Atlanta's airport sells more than $1.5 million in merchandise annually, officials say.

Terminal Gateway Spa plans to open this summer and offer manicures, pedicures, massages, facials and hot shaves at the airport's D/E connector.

Other expected arrivals include an Executive Shine shoeshine spot, a second Lids hat store and possibly a Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory sweet shop.

Orr said the businesses are becoming more astute about recognizing the disposable income of business travelers and at targeting merchandise to their needs.

"I think there's a general upscale trend in Charlotte," he said. "If upscale's what they want, it's what we'll give them."