Landing soon — Stella’s Cafe and Bakery. It’s returning to Winnipeg’s airport after three years.
“Once the people came back, then it made sense for Stella’s to come back as well,” said Tyler MacAfee, the Winnipeg Airports Authority’s vice-president of external affairs.
Stella’s, a Winnipeg-based chain, first set up shop near the airport’s departures level in 2011. Coffee flowed, as did rounds of soups and sandwiches.
It was among the restaurant’s most popular locations, vice-president of operations Rob Del Grosso wrote in an email.
That was before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Then came a “drastic reduction” in customers, Del Grosso said. Airport traffic was slashed; the restaurant left in October of 2020.
It will reopen in early 2024 if all goes as planned, the Winnipeg Airports Authority announced Tuesday.
“I think Stella’s was happy to be at the airport, and we certainly were happy to have them here,” MacAfee said.
Stella’s is a “great fit” because it’s a well-known Winnipeg brand, he continued.
“It’s a great way to both send people from Winnipeg… (and) welcome people to our city.”
Construction will begin soon. The renovated space will include a lounge, restaurant and bakery with grab and go options.
The same kind of menu as pre-pandemic — soups, salads, breakfast and lunch sandwiches — will be offered, Del Grosso wrote.
The company expects to hire up to 70 employees for the restaurant.
“We believe the timing is right for our return,” Del Grosso stated, pointing to more grab-and-go options and a rebounding of air travel.
More than one million people travelled through Winnipeg’s airport in April through June, bringing traffic levels to 93 per cent of 2019’s second quarter.
Last August saw around 99 per cent of the traffic a pre-pandemic August would, MacAfee stated.
“The financial recovery will come a little bit later,” he noted.
Winnipeg’s airport has seen a number of new additions over the past year, including a direct flight to Atlanta and the presence of Porter Airlines, a Toronto-based brand.
The WAA has been in talks with Stella’s since the end of the pandemic, when passenger traffic began to increase, MacAfee said.
Stella’s has seven restaurants listed on its website. It closed its Sherbrook Street site amid a strike in 2020.
Gabby is a big fan of people, writing and learning. She graduated from Red River College’s Creative Communications program in the spring of 2020.