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THINKING LOCAL
HUNGRY TRAVELERS WILL FIND A DIFFERENCE IN THE NEW TERMINAL'S FOOD SERVICE - AN ARRAY OF EATERIES THAT EMPHASIZE DINING WITH A WESTERN NEW YORK CONNECTION.

When Buffalo Niagara International Airport debuts in November, travelers passing through the $60 million terminal will be treated to a taste of Buffalo.

The airport's upscale food court will serve up meals that have a distinct Niagara Region flavor, courtesy of CA One Services, the airport concessions division of Buffalo's Delaware North Cos. Inc.

CA One, which has made its mark in airports across the country with its "gateway" concept, has applied its magic to its hometown airport to reinvent food and retail operations there.

Bill Ellis, CA One's general manager of operations at the airport, said the idea behind the gateway concept is to turn airport corridors into a regional walking tour. Rather than the bland, identity-less "Anywhere USA" look of most major airports, the new terminal will feature local sights, sounds and aromas.

"We accomplish that through the foods we serve, the decor and materials we've chosen and even the names we've picked for the different restaurants," Ellis said.

For example: Diners at the Niagara Grill can order a Nickel City breakfast sandwich and view the power of the mighty Niagara River as they eat. Murals of the American and Canadian falls grace the perimeter and a three-dimensional sculptured wave appears to splash along the ceiling.

At the Landmark Bar, visitors will be able to eat their fill of Buffalo chicken wings and beef on weck, surrounded by decor and furnishings in the style of famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Depictions of local Wright-designed structures, such as Buffalo's Darwin Martin House, draw a further regional connection.

The area's professional sports teams also have a place in the new terminal at the All-Stars of Buffalo Bar. Memorabilia from the NFL's Buffalo Bills, NHL's Buffalo Sabres and Triple-A Baseball's Buffalo Bisons is on display, highlighting some of the area's greatest sporting moments.

The three sports are united in the decor, which features a turf-theme floor, walls that mimic North AmeriCare Park and a ceiling that appears to be the ice surface at Marine Midland Arena.

Another local hook is Mrs. Rich's Bakery, the debut of a retail operation featuring baked goods prepared with recipes of the well-known Buffalo-headquartered frozen food company. Leading the list of tempting treats are jumbo gourmet cinnamon buns, as well as cookies, pastries and a variety of gourmet coffees.

Mattie's Texas Red Hots, a subsidiary of a popular Fillmore Avenue eatery with the same name, will add local flavor through its quick-to-eat hot dog meals.

CA One's own pizza restaurant, Americo's Pizzeria, will make its local debut, serving hand-formed pizza with an assortment of fresh ingredients. And the food selection will be rounded out by national chains Burger King and Freshens, a yogurt bar.

"Our goal is to offer the traveling public something different," Ellis said. "While the overall image is upscale, we've made a conscious effort to offer something for everyone."

On the retail side, CA One has brought its own take on a traditional airport newsstand/gift store to life through its "www.news-gifts" shop. The new-look retailer will offer more than 150 magazine titles, along with a host of national and international newspapers, books and other traditional sundries.

Unique to the airport setting is the Monarch Shop, a companion operation to the newsstand that offers an upscale specialty store shopping experience in a luxurious environment.

Local entrepreneur Maria Westman has invested more than $1 million in the high-end build-out of her store, which showcases items -- most notably leather goods -- from leading designers. Merchandise from Bally of Switzerland and Gucci is among the offerings.