The Fly ’N Buy Cafe and Gift Shop was never a fly-by-night operation. Located at the Bismarck Municipal Airport, the family business has been a staple of the community for more than 30 years.
It will close its doors on April 30 to make way for a new proprietor, a New Jersey company, Faber, Coe & Gregg of Florida Inc.
Todd Tescher, who manages the Fly 'N Buy for his sister, Lisa Gauerke, admits the idea of his family's legacy being awarded to an out-of-state organization grates on him. Previously, the business was operated by his parents, Jane and Richard Gauerke.
"City officials speak local, but when it comes to a few extra dollars, they send the money out of state," Tescher, 38, said.
The five-year lease with Faber, including an option for a five-year renewal, was approved by the Bismarck City Commission in January. Commissioners considered six proposals: four from Bismarck companies, one from North Carolina and one from New Jersey.
"All these years, we didn't make much money. We finally get to the point where I make a little bit of money and now I have to start over with a Plan B. They just came in and completely kicked our butt on a bid," Tescher said of the lease, which goes up for public bid every 10 years.
Tescher employs 11 people, some of whom are interviewing with the new company, which will rename the space The Junction Bismarck.
"It has been a fun place to work. I am going to miss it," Tescher said, adding, with a smile, that it is a "secure place" to be employed since his customers have to first pass through airport security.
There is not a lot of drama at Bismarck Municipal Airport: "A few people fall asleep and miss their flight," he said.
"It is fun to see celebrities fly in and out," Tescher said. And Air Force One makes a stop now and again.
Numbers show Bismarck Municipal Airport is handling increasing numbers of passengers. It was able to claim its highest annual airline passenger count on record — at 282,363 — in 2018, according to data released by the North Dakota Aeronautics Commission. Already in 2019, recent data indicates 10,000 more passengers passing through the airport than at this time in 2018.
In response, the city approved an update to the airport's master plan this month. The 20-year goals will include expansions to the terminal and concourse as well as upgrades to baggage handling systems and more parking.
Meanwhile, expect some big changes to the space now occupied by the Fly 'N Buy. Faber, which started in 1848 as a cigar store, is expected to invest $325,000 into remodeling, which would include the addition of a bar and video screens. Another $75,000 will be allotted at the beginning of a second five-year term to freshen things up, according to a signed contract. Capital assistance will not be provided by the Bismarck Municipal Airport.
The contract indicates Faber will move in overnight and continue doing business even as a two- to three-month construction phase begins.
Tescher is looking at change, as well. He said he is moving forward and considering some new restaurant ideas.
"I'll make something happen and go after it," he said.