Snack bar plan at Sawyer airport a promising effort

The plan to reopen the snack bar at Sawyer International Airport appears to be a win-win-win situation involving airline passengers, Marquette County and Northern Michigan University.

The county board approved an agreement with NMU at Tuesday’s meeting that calls for the university to open the snack bar Sept. 1. The shop has been closed since fall 2011, and efforts by airport officials to attract an operator have come up empty – until now.

Under the agreement, the county will fund some improvements to the snack bar, which is situated near the middle of the airport terminal and is in need of new counters and cabinets.

The university will operate the shop with welcomed fresh coffee under a partnership with a local coffee vendor and a limited menu of NMU’s commissary-prepared food.

In addition, NMU plans to offer for sale some of its university-related merchandise, such as sweatshirts, hats and other clothing.

Art Gischia, senior associate vice president for administration at NMU, said the operation will provide a great opportunity for students to work in a real-life situation, particularly having to arrive at Sawyer at about 4:30 a.m.

NMU will not pay rent during the one-year trial period, a scenario most county commissioners supported because they wanted to simply get the snack bar operating as a service to passengers and airport employees.

It’s questionable whether the operation will turn a profit, anyway, so the combination of a university providing a training ground for food service students and the county providing the venue works well for both of them.

In addition, airline passengers should welcome the fresh coffee and snacks, as well as the opportunity to get a look at some of the local university’s merchandise.

The plan calls for a review after one year to see if the agreement is working out and should be tweaked to remain in place.

We certainly throw our support behind the effort and hope it continues to provide benefits to all concerned for many years.