HR Airport New Restaurant

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“They had a very, very detailed business plan,” he explained and added, “every element about this really impressed us.”

“They really put a lot of thought into their whole approach to this,” he said.

The airport authority is offering a 10-year lease, and the next step in the process will be to finalize a lease agreement, Wadekamper said, noting that the airport offers free short-term parking for restaurant patrons.

A search for a new food and beverage service provider began in January after the airport authority decided in December not to renew the long-term lease for Captain Jack’s Restaurant and snack bar. The owner of the business then closed the operation in late December.

The new restaurant is named Smokejumper Station, a theme carried forward with the market, Smokejumper Market, and a cafe, Smokejumper Landing, which will be located inside the secured area where passengers wait to board their flights.

Conceptual drawings for the restaurant, with seating for about 45 diners, show a double-sided fireplace with televisions mounted above the fireplace.

Charging stations for cellphones and laptop computers provides a view of the Sleeping Giant geological formation on Helena’s northern skyline. Other charging stations will allow passengers and those waiting for arriving flights to monitor the boarding and arrival area.

The restaurant is anticipated to open by May 1, while plans call for the cafe to be open in a month.

“Dining room upgrades will have minimal impact and maintain consistency with the rest of the airport while providing a warm, inviting atmosphere for guests,” according to drawings of what is proposed by The Flying Ace.

Daily food service, seven days a week, will begin at 4:30 a.m. and a full menu will be available until 5 p.m., said Mabie, 40, who explained that he has a 25-year career in the food, beverage and hospitality industries.

According to his resume, he is currently the night closing manager at the Hatwhhorne Bottle Shop & Tasting Room as well as a customer service agent for Skywest Airlines, which serves Helena Regional Airport.

“This really brings together two of my passions, food and beverage, and airlines,” he said.

Future plans for the restaurant include a Saturday and Sunday brunch and the availability of catering service later this summer.

Appetizers from the bar and packaged food from the market will be available for those at the bar after the restaurant has closed for the day and for travelers who arrive late and want something to eat and drink. Similarly, people arriving late at night would be able to pick up food, a bottle of wine or a growler of Blackfoot beer from the market to take home, Mabie said.

Airport authority officials and Mabie both say they want the restaurant to become a destination for diners. Part of the potential for that to happen is to tap the market of those who work near the airport.

Unique menu items and the planned renovation of the restaurant will contribute to that effort, Wadekamper said.

A Yellowstone Grassfed Beef burger, Mabie said, would be between $10 and $12, while a sandwich or salad would be about $7.

About $75,000 is projected to be spent on the renovation, Mabie said and noted that Paul Jenkins, founder of Confluence Design in Helena, will be the contractor for the work.

(story from Thom Bridge, Helena IR)