Detroit Regional Chamber > Racial Justice & Economic Equity > Detroit Metro Airport Seeks Small Businesses to Fill Terminal Retail Space

Detroit Metro Airport Seeks Small Businesses to Fill Terminal Retail Space

March 1, 2024

Detroit News
Myesha Johnson
Feb. 28, 2024

Detroit Metro Airport is looking for two local retail businesses to fill space in the Evans Terminal this year.

The airport launched the Small Business Operators Arriving Ready (SOAR) program this month and hosted outreach and informational workshops to “give small businesses a global audience from Michigan’s gateway to the world,” according to a release.

Airport staff said they’re specifically looking for Michigan-based small businesses with “specialty retail items” that can stand alone in a 320-square-foot space.

The program will give business owners an opportunity to operate their specialty retail concept in the airport terminal and showcase products to thousands of domestic and international travelers every day.

Through outreach and informational workshops this month, the airport authority has reached over 100 vendors.

One of the vendors is Martell Mason of Highland Park, who is looking to put Sepia Coffee Project’s coffee beans on shelves.

“The airport has been kind of part of our strategy for our build out,” said Mason, 40, who attended a workshop at the Wayne County Community College District campus in Belleville. “We’re a small batch specialty roaster … We’re working on a buildout right now on Hamilton (Avenue). We just purchased a building and we’re going to open up Highland Park’s first coffee shop.”

The business works with 30 wholesale accounts in Metro Detroit, conducts pop-up shops and is hoping to provide the airport with “something that’s a bit more local, that really tells Detroit’s history,” Mason said.

In addition to the retail space, the vendors would be given a 65-square-foot office or storage space separate from the retail shop, airport officials said.

Brian and Shavyea Mosby of Detroit operate a brick-and-mortar popcorn store in downtown Grand Rapids called Mosby’s Popcorn. Their product can also be found in hospitals, arenas and grocery stores in Grand Rapids but they’re looking to bring it to their hometown.

“We were actually in the Grand Rapids airport a few years ago… we did have our product in the Grand Rapids. With us being from Detroit, our family still being here, we have a lot of roots here, so we’re always trying to look ways to reconnect back to our community,” said Shavyea Mosby, 41.

Brian Mosby, 41, is hoping that having their popcorn in Detroit’s airport would give them more exposure to travelers and increase online sales.

“We wouldn’t be here if we didn’t have Grand Rapids, but to do it at home in such a big way would be huge for us and … hopefully bring some jobs back to the city,” Shavyea Mosby said.

The available retail spaces have been waiting to be occupied since the Evans Terminal was built in 2008, said Christine Lindenmuth, the airport’s director of concessions.

“It has to be something that’s small business. This isn’t for … a franchise or a store where you’re just getting vending machine snacks,” Lindenmuth said. “We want to share the opportunity to make money with the people in our community.”

Victoria Inniss Edwards, director of business diversity for the Wayne County Airport Authority, said officials are looking for local vendors to give airport travelers a “pre-taste of Metro Detroit, a good representation, and recycle the dollar through the community.”

“Sometimes the only taste of Detroit and the surrounding area that people get is actually coming through the airport,” Edwards said.

In addition to finding two new vendors for the terminal, local businesses might be able to occupy shelf space in current retail stores. “We encourage their business in all sizes,” Lindenmuth said.

Registered businesses can submit a proposal by 2 p.m. March 18 and would be able to start physically marketing to international and national Detroit airport travelers in mid-June.

“Small businesses are at the heart of Michigan’s economy,” said Chad Newton, Wayne County Airport Authority CEO, in a release. “Considering DTW’s multi-billion-dollar economic impact each year, we are in a prime position to empower entrepreneurs as they take their small businesses to even higher heights. SOAR will also expand our concessions program by giving DTW customers more specialty retail options in the Evans Terminal.

“SOAR is one more way DTW is investing in our local communities and our state.”