Airport Store Merges 8 Indianapolis Cultural Centers

Author: 
Debbie McClung
Published in: 
May-June
2011




factsfigures

Project: Cultural Crossroads Retail Store

Location: Indianapolis Int'l Airport

Airport Owner: Indianapolis Airport Authority

Store Size: 892 sq. ft.

Retail Owner/Manager: The Paradies Shops

Retail Partners: The Children's Museum of Indianapolis Conner Prairie Living History Museum             Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians & Western Art         Indiana Historical Society               Indiana State Museum Indianapolis Art Center Indianapolis Museum of Art              Indianapolis Zoo

Master Architect: Hellmuth, Obata + Kassabaum

Project Architect: JH Ideas

Unique Elements: Merchandise from eight cultural institutions; first museum shop in a U.S. airport

Retail trends generally start on one of the coasts and sweep inward to the Midwest. Indianapolis International Airport (IND), however, is blazing a new trail from the heart of America's heartland.

Cultural Crossroads, located in the Civic Plaza of IND's midfield terminal, is a unique retail store featuring merchandise and displays from eight of Indy's premier cultural institutions such as The Children's Museum of Indianapolis and Indianapolis Museum of Art (see Facts & Figures on this page for complete list).

The store brings the best of the city's art and culture to travelers and local residents, say airport officials. Owned and operated by The Paradies Shops, it also brings a new retail concept to the U.S. airport market.

At the Crossroads

When IND's $1 billion terminal opened in 2008, its concessions mission was to provide a mix of dining and shopping experiences that feature recognizable national brands and the city's top restaurants, arts and cultural institutions. Cultural Crossroads was specifically designed to mobilize that mission. While officials aimed to capture the true feel and flavor of Indiana, they wanted to ensure their selections would satisfy the needs and preferences of business and leisure travelers with higher discretionary incomes.

It was also important for the airport to help communicate that Indianapolis has a great number of cultural institutions, adds IND retail director, Jeremiah Wise. "For instance, we are home to the largest children's museum in the world," Wise notes. "The Indianapolis Museum of Art is very well-known, very large, very endowed and free to attend. And we have a great zoo. We have all of these attractions that you have in major metropolitan cities (plus) museums that are really unique to us, like Connor Prairie and the Living History Museum with frontier American culture."

IND, he explains, is embracing two key trends that have emerged in airport retail in the past decade: imbedding local flair and presence (such as a barbecue concept in Memphis or a Disney-theme venture in Orlando) and the growing popularity of specialty retail such as Brooks Brothers(tm) clothing stores and PGA TOUR(r) Shops.

"We took our cues from these trends and really tried to create a model program that other airports could take a look at, replicate and improve," says Wise. "From a financial perspective, there's definitely demand from the traveler for these discretionary-type purchases."

An appreciation for art and culture - both functional and symbolic - is expressed throughout the facility. Forgoing traditional paintings and sculptures, planners integrated nearly $4 million of original art directly into architecture elements. Artists with Hoosier ties created a massive glass curtain, abstract wall murals and large-scale works imbedded in terrazzo flooring.

The airport's retail objective, says Wise, was an outgrowth of the administrative team's overall goal of differentiating the Indianapolis International Airport from simply the airport in Indianapolis. "The Cultural Crossroads store is really an amalgam of those two concepts: creating an Indianapolis-specific airport and creating this architecturally beautiful and culturally significant airport," Wise explains. "And it puts the eight institutions into one very unique retail location within the airport."

Creating an appropriate name for the store was paramount. In part, Cultural Crossroads identifies Indiana as the "Crossroads of America." "We're within a day's drive of about two-thirds of the U.S. population," notes Wise. "And the airport itself is a place where people travel to other parts of the country and the world. The name was a combination of that crossroads theme and the cultural retail development."

Outside Management

While the Indianapolis Airport Authority collaborated with the consortium of eight institutions about its retail concept, the group was coincidentally entertaining a similar idea as members of the Museum Store Association, which focuses on servicing culture and heritage travel.

"We're all very proud of the city and felt if we had representation at the airport, it would help encourage people to visit museums while they were in town," relates Robert Tate, director of museum retail at The Children's Museum of Indianapolis. "We also looked at it in the reverse: If anyone had been to one of our institutions and wanted to buy more merchandise, it's the last chance to buy that product as you're leaving town."

Tate and others, however, were not interested in additional staffing or management responsibilities. To simplify the complexities of coordinating multiple entities, the team selected The Paradies Shops, which operates 500+ stores in more than 70 airports and hotels in the United States and Canada, to execute the airport authority's vision.

The Paradies Shops coordinated the design and construction of the nearly 900-square-foot store with the architectural firm JH Ideas. The airport collects about $44,600 per year via a $50 per-square-foot lease, relates Wise.

The Paradies Shops' chief operating officer, Lou Bottino, considers Cultural Crossroads exclusive, even among its company-run specialty retail neighbors Brooks Brothers and Civic Plaza TravelMart. "Cultural Crossroads really serves to complement the retail stores within the Civic Plaza and the overall retail program designed by the airport management team at Indianapolis," comments Bottino. "The management of this store is unique in that it takes the coordination and cooperation of the eight entities that are involved to develop and maintain the merchandise assortment."

Museum Merchandise, Local Appeal

Cultural Crossroads is engineered to be more than a gift shop that sells museum merchandise. "The layout and design of the store is meant to evoke the feeling of being in a museum where you've just exited an exhibit and now you're at the museum gift shop," Wise describes.

Each cultural organization has its own lighted maple display unit. Collectively, the contemporary displays feature a diverse collection of high-end museum merchandise that is constantly evolving to capture travelers' attention. "This unique store features arts, artifacts and gifts from the rich selection of Indiana museums. Adults and children alike can explore a wide variety of books, souvenirs, apparel, exhibition merchandise, jewelry and much more," Bottino relates.




Cultural Crossroads features merchandise and displays from eight of Indy's premier cultural institutions.

Bearing in mind IND's profile as an origin and destination airport, officials knew the store's shopping experience would need to be distinctive and its stock interesting. "More than 90 percent of the people who get on planes here either start or end their journey in Indianapolis, so we see a lot of the same passengers on a regular basis," explains Wise. "They continue to patronize the store and enjoy the concept."

The store's one-of-a-kind merchandise, he relates, adds customer service value for harried travelers who lack the time to shop for unique souvenirs. "We try make it possible to de-stress your trip," says Wise. "Cultural Crossroads gives travelers more than candy or news by providing that different sense of being in a special place with special types of institutions."

Scenes from Hoosiers, the silver screen telling of Indiana's legendary love of basketball, are used to help entice passengers to the store. Once inside, they find an array of local treasures. The Indiana Historical Society's display includes the iconic leg lamp from the holiday classic A Christmas Story, which was set in fictional Hohman, IN. The brilliant four-story glass Chihuly sculpture at The Children's Museum of Indianapolis is merchandised in notebooks and cards, as is the handcrafted pottery and art that fills the collections at the Connor Prairie and the Eiteljorg Museum displays.

According to the store's management team, Cultural Crossroads appears to be heading in the right direction. Travelers often tell staff members that they love its selection and are impressed with its museum-quality presentation of merchandise, reports Bottino. A frequent business traveler from the Indianapolis area recently provided the following feedback on a customer service card: "I like your shop very much! I often find just the right gifts in your store!"

That's just what IND had in mind when it conceived the idea. "To hear travelers sharing those thoughts is really satisfying and gratifying," concludes Wise.

Subcategory: 
Concessions/Retail

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