Two new gift shops, grill to open at airport

A pair of new gift shops are in the planning stages at Valley International Airport, operated by the company which took over food service at the facility a year ago. This downstairs gift shop in the terminal is currently in a design phase. A second shop will open in the passengers-only section upstairs.

HARLINGEN — Two gift shops are in the works for airport passengers at Valley International Airport.

The downstairs gift shop is currently closed but, after a refurbishing, will re-open under a new operator.

“As you walked by downstairs earlier you saw that the construction is going on for the lower gift shop,” Marv Esterly, director of aviation at VIA, told the board last week. “Megamorphosis is the design company that is actually putting the designs on. A local firm.”

That lower gift shop, open to all in the airport terminal’s lobby, will be combined with an upstairs shop available to passengers who have cleared security.

The new gift shops will be operated by Tailwind Concessions out of Wilmington, N.C., a company which specializes in providing gift shop, bar and restaurant service at regional airports. Tailwind has been operating food service at the airport, along with two satellite bars, for over a year, and has now won the gift shop contract, too.

“We’ve already remodeled the pre-security restaurant and changed the menu, and we’ve already remodeled the post- security food service and changed the menu up there,” said Jeffry Switzer, president of Tailwind. “That’s all complete.”

Tailwind currently operates at 23 U.S. airports, including Amarillo and Corpus Christi.

“Now we’re going to refurbish the pre-security gift shop and then we’re going to add another gift shop in the north terminal and we’re going to also put a kitchen in the north terminal,” he added.

With the new terrazzo flooring in place on the lower level of the airport terminal, VIA officials are targeting big changes for the upstairs, post-security section of the terminal, including terrazzo there, too.

“Upstairs right now we’ve kind of cleaned up this area a bit and there are still things that are going to happen in that area in the next month, particularly the floor terrazzo upstairs, Esterly said.

Also upstairs, Tailwind is planning an enhanced capability restaurant which will offer a more diverse menu, he said.

“We also are working on the north end of the concourse with the design and the plans for the new food eatery down there where they’re going to have a hood and a grill so you’ll have not just the food that they prepare now but also have the ability to make French fries and hamburgers and Philly cheese steaks, I hope,” Esterly told the board.

The upstairs gift shop, Esterly said, will be located at the north end of the passenger area.

Switzer said the downstairs gift shop is now in the design phase and once a design has been agreed on, Tailwind will quickly begin the permitting process to get the new shop up and selling.

“The airport is growing like crazy and it’s just a good opportunity for the community to have better service at the airport,” Switzer said.