Ironclad Coffee Roasters owner Ryan O’Rourke couldn’t help but notice in his travels that small, local coffee shops like his were slinging cups of joe in airports in their respective hometowns.
“As I was traveling different places in the country I would see a local coffee company I knew the name of and they’d have a cafe in the airport and I’d be like, ‘That’s awesome. That’s something every airport should do,’” he said.
That notion will become a reality beginning today at O’Rourke’s hometown airport, as he has agreed to license his Richmond coffee shop’s brand for three new Ironclad cafes at Richmond International Airport.
The deal is with Delaware North, the New York-based company that operates eateries at RIC. The Ironclad cafes will replace the three Caribou Coffees that Delaware North has operated at the airport – in the A and B concourses as well as the shuttered cafe in the airport’s atrium.
O’Rourke said the menu at the airport locations is largely the same as what’s available at Ironclad’s coffee shops in Shockoe Bottom and Henrico County’s West End.
While O’Rourke admitted the arrangement doesn’t give him the level of control he has over his other shops, because Delaware North staffs and manages the airport cafes, the licensing agreement is a way to get his brand in front of visitors to the region.
“It’s a good thing for us because of the exposure,” he said. “(The airport) is one of the faces of any city. That’s how a lot of people come in to visit whether it’s tourism or for business.”
O’Rourke said he first pitched the idea to RIC several years ago after seeing similar arrangement at other airports. While the airport didn’t bite at the time, O’Rourke said that about a year and a half ago airport officials came back around.
“They really liked what we were doing and asked if we were interested in exploring something with them,” O’Rourke said.
The relationship started with two self-serve Ironclad coffee kiosks that have been operated by Delaware North at the airport for nearly a year.
A local representative of Delaware North didn’t respond to requests for comment Friday afternoon.