Bell’s Brewery lands at Ford airport renovation


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Renovation of the Gerald R. Ford International Airport will include a new Bell’s Brewery in the pre-security portion of the main hall.

Sections of the airport will be under construction throughout the next five years, as the facility first undergoes retail and concession renovations, then expands Concourse B and finally consolidates its security checkpoint and completes a build out of the main hall to make room for additional retail and concessions — most of which will feature local products made in West Michigan.

"Creating a sense of place"

The renovation of the current newsstand and concession areas will focus on creating a sense of place in the airport by highlighting retail, food and beverage options that are uniquely Grand Rapids, including incorporating the city’s moniker as Beer City, U.S.A.

“What I wanted to see was to bring more local flavor into our terminal retail and concessions,” said Brian Ryks, airport executive director. “I think it is important for people that are flying into our community or departing on their way back home . . . to get a sense of place in our airport of what our region represents and so that was one of the goals.”

Current retail and concession operator HMSHost received the contract for the renovation of the main hall and concourse retail and food and beverage options. 

"With our bid in Grand Rapids, we have successfully combined the distinctive local spirit of Western Michigan and the Great Lakes Region with national prestige," said Bryan Loden, senior director of business development at HMSHost.

Local names

Beginning in June, the company will start making changes, which will include the introduction of local brands Grand Rapids Magazine and Schuler Books & Music, as well as regional brand Bell’s Brewery and the introduction of the HMS-developed restaurant Great Lakes Tap Room, which hopes to feature several local products.

“From the local-area flavor, Bell’s Brewery will be part of that,” Ryks said. “We have a restaurant right now that is called Home Turf, which is a bar and restaurant in pre-security, and they are going to introduce a Bell’s location in there.

“Also, a Great Lakes Tap Room out on concourse B," he said. "I know they are working with a number of craft beer makers in the area trying to incorporate as much of that variety as possible out here. So those are some of the things that you will see on the food and beverage part of it.”

"While Bells is a great regional brewery, we are also currently working on bringing a Grand Rapids-based brewery into GRR in one of the post-security concourse locations," Loden said.

Bell’s Brewery could not be reached for comment as of Friday afternoon.

Travelers looking for healthy and fresh travel fare can visit HMS brand Greens, which will have space inside the airport. It, too, will be locally sourced.

Ryks said popular national brand Starbucks will be retained, but will be moving to at least one of the concourses. Coffee retailer Seattle’s Best will join the airport lineup.

“Ideally you want a mix,” said Ryks of the updated concession offerings. “Starbucks is a good part of that. They are a well-recognized national brand that is very popular with the traveling public. So you want a mix of strong national and local brands as well.”


In addition to concessions, the current newsstand located in the main hall will be renovated beginning in June into a Grand Rapids Magazine branded travel retail store. Grand Rapids Magazine is a sister publication of Grand Rapids Business Journal.

The store will include several local products, including a section branded by Schuler Books & Music. Eventually, the location will close to make way for a consolidated security checkpoint and will open as two new stores — one in each of the concourses.

“I’m excited,” Ryks said. “I think there’s a definite need. We need to incorporate more of the local flavor and sense of place into our airport terminal and that is exactly what these projects are going to accomplish. They are going to put a fresh new look on our concession and retail offerings, so I am very excited about it. I think it’s needed, and I know the board is fully behind it, obviously.”

Concourse B and Southwest Airlines

Beginning this summer, the airport also will start an expansion project on Concourse B to accommodate newly added service from Southwest Airlines, which is scheduled to begin in August.

“The Great Lakes Tap Room is part of a concourse B expansion,” Ryks said. “Basically, what we are doing is we are widening the concourse and certain locations, and we are adding two more gates to help support the Southwest operation. As part of that project, we are remodeling the entire concessions and retail on concourse B, so that one will probably not open until 2014.”

Concourse A will receive minor improvements, including added room for seating and updates to its concessions as well.

Security consolidation

All of this is leading to an even bigger project with a three-to-five-year time line: The consolidation of the security checkpoints and a build out of the main hall exterior wall to allow for additional retail and concessions, which will be located beyond security.

Post 9/11 airport design needs have changed dramatically due to increased security requirements.

Ford airport has previously said its new design would modernize the airport and decrease security checkpoint congestion. It will also meet the need for full-service amenities located beyond security, which previously was less necessary.

The new concession area will include a sit-down restaurant. The airport will begin considering proposals for a retail and concession operator for this area in 2014.

“The goal is to really make our airport a modern facility that incorporates some of the great work that has been done — the parking structure and the work that was done on the front of the terminal,” Ryks said. “My goal is to incorporate that theme and flavor all the way throughout the building.”

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