Afterburner Café gets makeover at Duluth's International Airport

Beer and Lake Superior – Put them together, and you get the remodeled and updated Afterburner Café that was put into Duluth’s International Airport. Finished in January 2013, the airport's new terminal was a $78 million project that included the rebuilding of the café that already existed at the airport. As you fly into Duluth from Chicago or the Twin Cities, or even drive into the opening gate, you can’t help but notice the architecture of the new terminal. The roof and mezzanine have curved shapes to represent the waves of Lake Superior, rippled decorative glass inside to represent water, and haphazard lines in the terrazzo floors that were inspired by cracked ice, according to a Duluth News Tribune article.

The exterior of the terminal reflects the Great Lake that is Superior and the ore boats that come through the canal each day. However, the terminal is not the only thing that got an updated look to it during remodeling. The Afterburner Café was also updated when the terminal was rebuilt, though it was downsized in the process.

“It was the hippest spot in town,” said Tom Werner, executive director of the Duluth Airport Authority.

With the many new safety precautions that came along after 9/11, airport security has made it impossible to get inside the new and improved Afterburner Café without being a ticketed passenger. What's more, with the changes came improvements to the items offered at the café.

“With the beer, we wanted to make local and regional options,” Werner said. ” It compliments what is going on in the city.”

Werner said his favorite Lake Superior Brewery flavor of beer is Kayak Kolsch because it is sweet. Yet, he added that aside from the local beers sold at the café, there are also craft beers and drink specials that are offered.

Even with all of the recent changes to the café, times have changed since four decades ago when the establishment first opened its doors at the airport. The café is downsizing and adapting to the economic times that have impacted the airport.

“We have minimal staffing and have cut down the people,” Werner said. "We have a low volume and only one to two people on staff. This is an efficient way of space.”

With the new additions to the airport, comes a price that that affects not only the airport but also the services it provides, including the Afterburner Café.

A new study that is still be conducted states that 58 percent of Duluthians who live within 30 miles of Duluth still don’t use the airport, but rather, they travel to the Twin Cities to fly out of Minnesota instead, according to a Northland NewsCenter article published on April 2. In the article, Don Monaco, owner of Monaco Air Duluth, said ticket prices are just one of a variety of issues people take into account when making this decision.

Even though the airport itself could be seeing fewer numbers, the Afterburner Café is still a place that is on the rise, Werner said.

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