Brother's Food Mart

Brother's Food Mart

A committee of airport officials and city representatives on Tuesday selected two proposals to design, build and operate news, gift and retail concessions at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport's new 35-gate, nearly $1 billion terminal.

Four firms responded to the city's request for proposals, which said the city wants to establish "an award-winning concessions program that celebrates New Orleans" and will appeal to locals and visitors alike.

Two separate areas in the new terminal, each roughly 9,400 square feet, are up for grabs, and the Aviation Board is expected to reach deals for them with the two companies that submitted the highest-scoring proposals. 

The top-scoring proposal was submitted by Georgia-based Paradies Lagardere, which operates retail areas at almost 100 airports. The firm's plan, which is backed by Beverly McKenna, publisher of the New Orleans Tribune, and local businessman Henry Coaxum, calls for spending at least $5.1 million in initial capital investment.

The proposal promised to feature a number of household names, including a newsstand branded with The New Orleans Advocate's logo; a Tabasco Country Store that would sell Tabasco-related gifts and accessories; a Brother's Food Mart outlet; and retail from Fleurty Girl and Nola Couture.

Pacific Gateway Concessions, of California, which operates in nine airports and has more than $70 million in annual sales, submitted the second highest-scoring proposal.

That firm, which plans to spend at least $6 million in initial capital costs, touted retail offerings such as Pulp and Grind, a Warehouse District cafe that sells specialty juices; the Southern Food & Beverage Museum, which might offer programs with local chefs and authors; and Hattie Sparks, a boutique store that sells jewelry and accessories in the South Market District.

In addition, the company proposed adding a "groundbreaking hybrid retail and performance space" affiliated with New Orleans' iconic Preservation Hall. Travelers could stop there for a photo or catch a musical performance, as well as to buy tickets for the French Quarter landmark's nightly shows.

The other two proposals were submitted by Marshall Retail Group, a Nevada-based retailer that operates more than 160 stores in the U.S. and Canada, which finished third, and Hudson Group, a major operator of newsstands at airports and bus stations with more than 950 stores in the U.S. and Canada, which finished fourth.

The airport's present retail program is run under a joint venture involving Hudson Group, but that deal expires next year.

To make its decision, the selection committee scored the proposals on a scale that weighed each plan's products and likely prices most heavily, at 35 percent. Other factors were the proposal's design and quality, 20 percent; the firm's qualifications and its management and operations plan, 20 percent; how much money would flow into the airport's coffers, 15 percent; and having minority-owned firms involved in the work, 10 percent.

The Paradies Lagardere proposal scored 474 of a possible 500 points. Pacific Gateway scored 460, Marshall 438 and Hudson 431.

The five-member committee consisted of Eric Friedman, the airport's concessions manager; Jeff Hebert, the city's chief administrative officer; Scott Hutcheson, head of Mayor Mitch Landrieu's Office of Cultural Economy; Jason Seay, the airport's ground transportation manager; and Michelle Wilcut, the airport's deputy director and chief customer service officer.

The city's request for proposals stipulated that retail prices at the airport can't exceed what the same products would cost elsewhere in the metro area by more than 10 percent.

The city is seeking a minimum guarantee from the winning firms of at least $1.7 million during the first year.

Financial terms of the submitting teams' deals with the companies they listed in their bids were unclear. Each proposal included non-binding letters from various companies stating that they planned to conclude agreements if their group's proposal advanced.

Two other local news publications — the weekly paper Gambit and The Times-Picayune — were involved with the two losing bids.

Follow Richard Thompson on Twitter, @rthompsonMSY.