Subway lands at Grand Junction airport

Hot food back after three-year absence

Brian Harrison, a Grand Junction Regional Airport employee, gets a Subway sandwich before he ends his shift at the airport. Customers also can buy wine and beer at the restaurant.

Airline passengers flying out of Grand Junction Regional Airport could tell something was different the minute the doors slid open and they walked into the terminal.

They could smell food.

“You should have been here at 4:30 (a.m.) They were making cinnamon rolls. It was killing me,” Airport Manager Rex Tippetts said.

The odor of fresh-baked bread and other foodstuffs wafting through the airport from the Subway Cafe on Wednesday marked the return of hot food service to the airport after a three-year hiatus.

Although he declined to release sales figures, Tippetts said he was pleased with how the first day went. He said there was a rush of customers when the cafe opened at 5 a.m. in the hour before the day’s initial flights. Business picked up again around noon, with three flights leaving between 11:45 a.m. and 1 p.m.

Don Watson last flew into Grand Junction five years ago to help restore the Wayne N. Aspinall Federal Building downtown. The 51-year-old foreman with Hydro-Tech, a masonry-restoration business based in Lehi, Utah, was preparing to return to his home in Moses Lake, Wash., Wednesday after completing a project at Western State College in Gunnison.

For him, the cafe marked a significant upgrade over the airport vending machines he remembered from his last trip here.

“It’s very nice,” said Watson, who grabbed a sub sandwich and a soda before boarding. “I’m glad to see Grand Junction expanding a little bit.”

The bright, airy cafe is adjacent to the security gates, purposely straddling the secure and nonsecure sides of the terminal to allow both ticketed passengers and greeters to nab something to eat and drink.

The secure side features four tables and a series of comfortable chairs where passengers can watch the two televisions in the cafe. There’s a small counter and a few bar stools on the nonsecure side.

The cafe offers the traditional Subway fare, as well as some extras. It includes a coffee bar featuring Seattle’s Best Coffee and sells beer by the bottle and local wine by the glass from Two Rivers Winery. Passengers looking for a last-minute gift can pick up a bottle of wine.

“We think it’s a good idea. We just don’t know how well it will be received,” Tippetts said of selling corked wine.

The airport Subway is one of just a handful across the country to serve beer and wine.

The airport had been without a restaurant since the end of 2007. Its absence didn’t go unnoticed by airport customers, who made the lack of something to nosh their top complaint about airport service.

Subway will not only serve the more than 200,000 people who fly out of the airport every year, but the 500 to 600 employees who are on the airport grounds on any given day, Tippetts said.

He said his first choice in bringing food service back to the restaurant would have been to contract with a private vendor. But the federal Transportation Security Administration expressed concern about allowing employees to shuttle back and forth between the secure and nonsecure areas. The solution was to have the airport become a Subway franchise and airport employees run the cafe.

The airport spent $350,000 to build the cafe. It expects to bring in a net income of $120,000 annually, meaning it could pay for itself in three years.

Tippetts said he should have a better idea in about a month how profitable the cafe will be.

“If the first day is any indication, we’ll meet our projections,” he said. “But it’s hard to say right now.”


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