VOL. 112 | NO. 140 | Monday, August 10, 1998
By STACEY PETSCHAUER
Seeing Memphis through the airport
New retail shopping center gives airport
visitors a taste and feel for Memphis
By STACEY PETSCHAUER
The Daily News
Airport layovers give travelers the opportunity to land in new and interesting places, but a couple of hours spent cooped up in an airport terminal hardly allow visitors to taste a citys local flavor.
Memphis International Airport is trying to change that through Memphis Market, a new retail shopping center in Concourse B that is designed to give airport customers a feel for the Memphis scene.
The Market includes new store concepts that have been developed by local business people, such as Accents n Accessories, Lindes Readers Express and Just a Little R & R.
These new retail sites and several national retail names have joined the variety of other stores and restaurants located throughout the airport, such as the Graceland Store, Da Blues-Memphis and Tennessee Tavern.
Host Marriott Services Corp., a food, beverage and retail concessionaire, opened Memphis Market and has been working with airport officials to expand retail selection, merchandise and the availability of new product lines in the airport terminal.
One of the companys goals for the Memphis Market is to include local and regional brands in product lines along with national brands, said Joe DeBaun, general manager of Host Marriott Services for Memphis International Airport.
"We are trying to offer new, unique product lines that have not been traditionally available here in the airport in the past," he said.
Another goal of the Memphis Market project is to expand opportunities for local business people, particularly disadvantaged and minority businesses, to open businesses in the airport with minimal up-front cost, DeBaun said.
Kiosks have been provided for several retailers that recently moved into the Memphis Market area, and owners of these new businesses pay a small rent percentage plus the cost of their inventory, he said.
One of the local businesses in the Memphis Market, Lindes Readers Express, is owned and operated by Linda Sykes, a local licensed optician.
Sykes, who formerly worked for a local optometrist, wanted to branch out on her own, and Memphis Market gave her the opportunity, DeBaun said.
"I wrote a letter to Host Marriott requesting a spot for an optical shop a couple of years ago, before they had even decided what types of specialty shops they wanted for the Memphis Market," Sykes said.
Her request led to a full-scale optical shop inside the airport that offers everything except eye exams. Sykes specializes in reading glasses but also offers repair work and prescription eyewear.
Her prescription work is completed at an outside lab near the airport, and she said she can have prescriptions ready in as quickly as two hours, depending on the type of work required.
Sykes has been operating her shop in the airport since December. She said she likes working in the airport setting, and believes Host Marriott has provided a variety of goods and services for traveling visitors.
"People can get their eyewear service, their personal necessities, their gift items," she said. "We have a very nice golf shop. Out of all the shops, we have low-end and high-end, so we can cater to all walks of life that come through the airport."
Two other shops in the Memphis Market also are owned and operated by local business people.
Accents n Accessories, owned and operated by two local women, sells fashion accessories such as scarves and jewelry. Prior to opening the airport store, the two worked out of their homes, selling products to local businesses and to people who were homebound or could not easily leave their homes to shop, DeBaun said.
Just a Little R & R, a body and bath boutique, also is owned by two local business women, he said. The store specializes in vitamins, bath accessories, travel items and some small novelty and souvenir items, he said.
Other shops that have locations in the Memphis Market are Wilson the Leather Experts, Tie Rack, Sunglass Hut, Sweet Factory, PGA Tour and Altitunes.
Host Marriott Services operates or is involved through joint-venture partnerships with these businesses and the various other retail shops and restaurants in the airport, DeBaun said.
Host Marriott and the Memphis and Shelby County Airport Authority currently are working on a plan for future "reconcepting" of current facilities located in the airport to enhance its offerings to travelers, DeBaun said.
Projects are expected to start around the first of next year, he said.
From the airports perspective, the Memphis Market has a lot to offer, said Jerry McMichael, executive vice president for the Memphis and Shelby County Airport Authority.
"It offers the passengers more of a variety as to products that are available, and we have both in the Memphis Market and throughout the airport tried to bring in Memphis themes and connections whenever possible," he said.
"Weve been very excited about Host Marriott bringing these businesses in, and we are hoping traffic will grow and we can bring more vendors into the Memphis Market."
Airport officials hope when the Memphis Market project is complete, the whole area will give traveling passengers more of a feel for the city because many of them see no more of Memphis than the airport itself, McMichael said.
"We hope that people, when theyre traveling through, will say, Memphis looks like a great town. We need to come back and stay next time," he said.
"We hope that will happen, and I think as we continue to improve the airport as far as different things we have to offer passengers, they will get that feeling."
The Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau has placed information sites in various locations throughout the airport, and McMichael said between those sites and various Memphis concessions, the city is well-promoted.
"We have Corkys Bar-B-Q, we have Interstate Bar-B-Q, and now with the Memphis Market, people are going to get a little bit of the flavor of Memphis," he said.