Denver International Airport is about to embark on a $1.8 billion renovation of Jeppesen Terminal that will move security out of the Great Hall and into the north section of level five, where once-bustling, now-empty airline counters reflect the new reality of how people travel. That will free up a vast expanse to take advantage of how people shop when they’re a captive market. Great Hall Partners, a private consortium led by Spanish company Ferrovial Airports, will fill the terminal with new concessions, collecting 20 percent of the income during a 34-year contract with the city. But while surrendering control for that long sounds silly, would it be any better for the city to take the lead?
The airport’s concession program has never been a thing of beauty. Marked by charges of nepotism and just plain overcharging, the shops were a disappointment from the start. In recent years, the airport has worked at bringing in better stores, even ventures with local connections: Root Down’s restaurant on Concourse C has earned raves from travelers around the globe; the Tattered Cover name, if not its stock (or service), is represented; and DIA even gave the nod to a tiny craft-beer kiosk (though we still thirst for a Colorado craft-beer store where passengers who’ve already gone through security can load up on souvenirs of this state’s liquid assets). But still, today the Greetings From Colorado store is selling “Colorado-style” socks and T-shirts with Colorado symbols...made in Nicaragua.
Marshall Retail Group out of Minnesota.
That’s not the outfit that contacted the RiNo Art District last December and told president Jamie Licko it would like to partner with the district on a store at the airport. And by partnering, company reps told Licko at a meeting, they meant they wanted to pay to use the RiNo brand, work with the organization to feature goods made in RiNo (the arts district plans to open its own store in RiNo itself in 2018), and even give the district and local artists the proceeds from the sales of those items, Licko recalls. Even for an organization very protective of its name, the deal sounded good to the RiNo board, which wrote a letter of support for the proposal last January.
Last week Licko spoke with a Marshall rep, but didn’t get much satisfaction. “We don’t intend to let this go,” she says. “It smells like a cheap ripoff. It’s a group from Minneapolis that hasn’t even spent time in RiNo. It’s incredibly sad that the airport is letting them do that...that the city will let them do it.”
Airport officials point to Flight Stop, a Marshall store on Concourse A that’s “themed after Union Station” and is “currently the airport’s best-performing convenience retail option” for what we can expect from the Larimer and RiNo shops.
Expect to be disappointed.
(And surprised, if you happen to be involved with the actual Union Station developers: Joe Vostrejs, a partner in the Union Station Alliance, says his group didn’t hear from anyone at Marshall regarding a store named after the station. Vostrejs is also a partner in Larimer Associates, which runs Larimer Square; Marshall hasn’t contacted that group about its upcoming Larimer store, either.)
Mindy Sink’s Walking Denver, judging from the shirts stacked by the books, you’re supposed to walk the Mile High City while wearing garments made in Duluth, Georgia.
Time to make tracks.