NewsLink's Raymond Kayal Jr. and Christopher Korge are the leaders behind the beautiful newsstands, britto stores, and retail spaces you're seeing at Miami's airports.
“My first job as a teenager was in Ray’s family’s warehouse,” says Christopher Korge (far left), here with Raymond Kayal Jr. at NewsLink’s The Shoppes at Ocean Drive at Miami International Airport.
Miami-based NewsLink is something of a “David” in the world of airport-industry “Goliaths.” CEOs Raymond Kayal Jr. and Christopher Korge took a 50-year old family business—that of airport concessions—and have grown it into a cutting- edge, $50-million-a-year company with 30 stores across four airports and an additional seven coming online in 2017. In 2011, they beat out billion-dollar conglomerates also competing for the space and launched The Shoppes at Ocean Drive, the award-winning mini department store at Miami International Airport that features numerous local vendors. The partners chatted with Ocean Drive about how their industry has evolved over the past 50 years.
How did you decide to take over the company together? Raymond Kayal Jr.: In 2004, our contracts at the airports were all expiring. My dad decided he was going to retire, and I was really at a crossroads with whether to go back to law or try to stay in the business. So I went to Chris. Christopher Korge: What really made us a great combination is that we came from two different directions—Ray started working with his father to learn how the business operated…and I was in the airports and had the finance experience, which is a big part of our business.
How have things most changed since those early days? RK: The first store my grandfather started with in 1959 was a camera and cutlery shop. We sold knives and machetes at the airport. Obviously, the world has changed.
What is the Miami customer like? RK: At The Shoppes, one of the concepts is Solstice Sunglasses. Solstice has a number of brands that are higher-end—that is very appealing to the South American/Latin American customer base. CK: Another example: Our Florida stone crabs do remarkably well. They’re fresh, they’re brought in every day, and it’s unique because the supply is both local and [limited].
What kind of trends have you seen in recent years? RK: Books have actually seen a surge in business. Customers are telling us that there’s nothing that takes the place of having a book in your hand.
How were you able to survive during the economic downturn? CK: The new terminal was coming online, and our new stores were coming online right as the economy tanked. It was lucky in that we were able to build the new stores and have them positioned post-security instead of pre-security.
You were recently awarded space at Tampa International Airport. What’s next for NewsLink? RK: Our core goal is to maximize and do the absolute best we can with the business that we have. And we know—and the history has shown it—that when we do that, growth naturally and organically occurs.