CLEARWATER — Travelers using St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport will soon have more choices for retail, food and beverages.
Pinellas County Commissioners voted 6-1 May 7 to approve a 10-year master concession agreement with SSP-Hudson PIE Concessions LLC, which will bring a mix of national and local brands to the airport.
The agreement includes an initial capital investment of nearly $4.2 million by SSP-Hudson for refurbishment and development of retail, food and beverage facilities. The redevelopment process is expected to take seven months.
The new offerings include Dunkin Donuts to be located in pre-security and Gates 2-6 departure lounge. Local brands including Mazzaro’s Italian Market will serve travelers at Gates 7-11, and 3 Daughters Brewing will be located at Gates 2-6.
A restaurant called The District Pub will be located in the pre-security area on the second floor. In addition, SSP-Hudson will install locally themed retail stores, such as Market 361, which was named for the average annual days of sunshine in Pinellas.
Commissioner Ken Welch voted against the agreement because he preferred a local coffee vendor, suggesting Kahwa Coffee, which is located in St. Petersburg. Welch was concerned that a local coffee vendor wasn’t even considered, adding that Kahwa Coffee was known throughout Pinellas.
Commissioner Janet Long questioned why a local restaurateur wasn’t picked to run the full-service restaurant on the second floor. She reluctantly supported the agreement, but asked that “more of our own” be considered in the future.
Representatives from SSP-Hudson explained that a balance of national and local brands provided the best package for travelers. The current agreement includes two local, one national and one proprietary brand.
John D. Clark, vice president of business development at SSP America, said SSP and Hudson believed they had fulfilled the criteria of the airport’s Request for Proposals, which was for a mix of local and national. He said the level of service by the new offerings would be different from what had been seen in the past.
He did agree to look at bringing in a local coffee shop if needed in the future.
“We want to make sure we deliver the service the community expects,” he said.
The proposal provides a minimum annual guarantee of more than $1.2 million to the airport the first year and at least a 3% increase for years two-10.
“We’re excited for our partnership with St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport with expanded and new retail concepts that modernize the travel experience for PIE’s 2.2 million plus annual passengers,” said Roger Fordyce, chief executive officer of Hudson Group. “This new contract win reflects our focus on maximizing our passenger traffic exposure in North America’s airports, while also diversifying the concepts and products we offer to better meet the need of travelers.”
The airport’s terminal renovation project for Gates 7-11 is almost done and has been open since the fall. Spaces within the 12,000 square foot addition are ready for Hudson’s new concessions facilities. All concession spaces in the airport should be finished this year.
Airport Director Tom Jewsbury joined the County Commission in welcoming the Hudson Group, which operates concession at airports across the United States.
“Adding the local flavor of Mazzaro’s and 3 Daughter’s Brewing is exciting for our local passengers and will certainly create fans of our visiting passengers,” Jewsbury said. “We look forward to a long and successful partnership.”
The 10-year agreement includes a provision for an additional five-year extension.
Stellar Partners had operated the airport’s retail shops since 2000, and First Class Concessions provided food and beverage offerings since 2008.
Suzette Porter is TBN’s Pinellas County editor. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.