Northern Michigan Expands Service to Airport

The Marquette County Board of Commissioners approved a $10,000 agreement to have the department run the snack bar.

Published in FSD C&U Spotlight

Dining services at Northern Michigan University, in Marquette, has partnered with the county to provide service to a new snack bar at Sawyer International Airport. The one-year trial period agreement took effect Sept. 1. Tom Helgren, director of auxiliary services, says the department hopes to have the café open this fall.

The Marquette County Board of Commissioners approved a $10,000 agreement to have the department run the snack bar. The $10,000 will provide for improvements to the space, including new countertops and cabinets. Sharon Carey, director of dining services, says the menu will feature items that the department already makes in its commissary, which will be transported to the airport daily.

“The menu will include cold sandwiches, pastries for the morning and some dessert items,” Carey says. “No extra labor will be required to provide this service since we can just work it into what we’re already producing. Coffee is the No. 1 thing [the commission] are looking for at that concession area, so we are partnering with a local roaster to provide the coffee. We also want to partner with local candy companies.” Carey says the stand will also sell some NMU apparel from the bookstore, as well as other souvenirs from the Upper Peninsula area. 

One challenge with the new venture is the remote location of the airport. “The airport is about 15 miles from campus, so there will be a challenge getting the food there,” Helgren says. “The first flights start at 6 a.m. so we’re thinking we’ll have to leave campus at about 4:30 a.m.”

Helgren is expecting the snack bar to be a break-even operation, though he says the traffic that goes through that area is encouraging. The space is also connected to the county’s bus transfer station, which should also bring traffic to the space. 

“[The sales projection] is why we are doing a one-year trial period, so we can see how it goes,” Helgren says. “We thought the space would be really great exposure for the university. Obviously, there is a lot of traffic going in and out of the area, but we also wanted to use the space as a working lab, not only for our dining students but possibly for our hospitality management students.” 

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