Detroit Airport Considering New Shops to Up Budget

Fancy martini drinks and gooey cheeseburgers could be coming to the McNamara Terminal at Detroit Metro Airport.

A Fuddruckers and a Grey Goose Martini Lounge are among six restaurant and retail shops slated for approval today for McNamara Terminal's Concourse C, which is under construction.

The new names are the last major addition to an already eclectic and decidedly local mix of airport restaurants and stores that saw a 20% boost in revenue in 2004 and stands to make larger gains this year as airport traffic is expected to reach an all-time high in 2005.

The airport's governing board is expected to approve a proposal for the shops, which CA One Services would manage. Buffalo, N.Y.-based Delaware North Cos. owns CA One. Other potential shops include a Coffee Beanery, a sports bar with a motorsports theme, and stops for magazines, newspapers and odds and ends.

CA One already runs 13 retail stores in Concourse A and recently opened an Irish pub and a Coffee Beanery in the newly expanded Concourse B.

Officials from the airport, CA One and Delaware North didn't want to comment on the proposal before it is approved.

The board is considering a 7-year contract; the new shops would bring at least $850,000 a year to the airport's budget, according to a meeting agenda. The shops would open this fall, when the first gates are to open on Concourse C.

The construction, managed by Northwest Airlines Inc., will rebuild Concourse C to add 16 gates, transforming the facility from a commuter terminal to look more like Concourse A with high ceilings and large windows.

Meanwhile in Concourse A, a Starbucks is to open in July in a prime spot next to the water fountain. The airport is also considering placing concessions downstairs where domestic passengers pick up their bags, said airport spokesman Brian Lassaline.

The shops and restaurants at Metro Airport, including 82 at the McNamara Terminal and 22 at the Smith Terminal, generated $112.5 million in sales last year, a 20% boost compared to 2003, when the shops generated $93.5 million in sales.

According to 2003 numbers from trade publication Airport Revenue News, passengers at Metro Airport pay about $5.21 on average for concessions and retail, less than the $8.17 passengers pay on average at JFK International Airport or the $7.34 they pay on average at San Francisco International Airport.

Metro Airport receives a chunk of those retail sales. In 2004, that amounted to $19.2 million.

Those numbers should grow as airport officials expect to see traffic reach more than 35.5 million passengers and for the first time exceed pre-9/11 levels.

Concessions suffered just after 9/11, when security regulations changed and only ticketed passengers were allowed past security -- where most of the shops and restaurants are located. The change prompted one management firm, Select Service Partner, to decide against managing businesses at the airport, leaving about 15 shops empty.

But those spots have been filled, Lassaline said, and sales are improving.

Sales are up at the Pangborn Design Collection, said owner Dominic Pangborn, who sells his signature ties and scarves at the store near the terminal's fountain.

At the other end of the retail spectrum, sales also are up at the terminal's McDonald's, said the franchise's owner, Jim Thrower.

The terminal has no empty space and Lassaline said he doesn't expect much turnover for at least two years, when the contracts begin to expire.

Metro Airport' s variety and local names reflect a growing trend in airport retail, said Pauline Armbrust, publisher of Airport Revenue News.

That was the airport's aim, Lassaline said, and has helped garner recognition for the airport's concessions program.

"It's not the old traditional airport food and airport retail program," said Lassaline with traditional meaning hot dogs and pizza.

At Metro, food selections include falafel, sushi, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and not just hot dogs -- Coney dogs.

Travelers on Wednesday morning said the terminal had enough restaurants to find what they want. But over a fruit cup and coffee at the Coffee Beanery at the south end of the terminal, Chris Board said she loved the stores.

"The shops look beautiful," said Board, 57, of Ortonville, who was waiting for a flight to Nashville, Tenn.

Further down the terminal, at Gayle's Chocolates, Sherri Tarzwell of Midland carried the Tumi handbag and briefcase she bought at the airport last year.

"They finally spruced up the Detroit Airport and got some decent shopping," she said.