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Curating from Local to Global: New Airport Shops Feature Glass Art and African Goods

Kiosk program celebrates 10 years of introducing travelers to unique goods from small businesses
August 23, 2022

Two new small businesses featuring blown glass by Seattle artists and handmade products from Africa opened near Gate A1 at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) this week. Glass Eye Studio and Africa’s Best join the airport’s unique portfolio of nearly 40 shops offering travelers essentials for the journey or the chance to indulge with hard-to-find local goods and duty-free options.  

“Glass Eye Studio and Africa’s Best will contribute to our goal to adequately support minority-owned businesses and elevate an inclusive travel experience that defines SEA,” said Port of Seattle Commissioner Hamdi Mohamed. “Our goal is to turn our promises into actions and give travelers the option to support small and BIPOC owned businesses.”

Both retailers opened as part of the airport’s kiosk program. The kiosk program launched a decade ago to provide more flexible and less expensive options for new concessionaires interested in operating at the airport. Infrastructure in these spaces is provided and maintained by the Port. With shorter leases and fewer expenses to open, it’s a trial opportunity for retailers. Many kiosks retailers graduate to bigger opportunities at SEA.

Glass Eye Studio 

Glass Eye Studio is a must-stop for handblown glass art, gifts, and collectibles made by artisan glassblowers in its Seattle studio. The Pacific Northwest is synonymous with glass art and a community of glass artists that has grown exponentially over the 50 years. Glass Eye Studio is one of the oldest privately-owned hot shops in the country and served as a training ground for some of the most famed glass artists of this region. 

Now located in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood, the studio continues to create the blown glass objects and art such as ornaments, bowls, paperweights, hummingbird feeders, candle holders and drinkware that will be available at its SEA Airport outpost. 

“Founded at the Pike Place Market in 1978, Glass Eye Studio has continued to thrive with the same passion and revelry for all things glass,” said Creative Director and Majority Owner Piper O’Neill. "Today, as a woman-owned small business, we’re proud to support a diverse and inclusive team of some of the most talented and dedicated artisans and designers in the great Pacific Northwest. We’re so excited and honored to be able to share our legacy, and that of our larger glassblowing community, with local and international travelers at SEA.” 

Africa’s Best

Africa’s Best brings the goods and wares of an African marketplace to SEA as one of the first of its kind concepts at a U.S. airport. Focused on handmade products and natural materials, this shop brings the craftmanship and culture of Africa to travelers. Black-, women- and immigrant-owned, Africa’s Best carries exclusively Fair Trade Certified™ products  with a focus on women artisans and makers bringing a unique collection of high fashion jewelry, scarfs, clothing, home décor and statues, leather goods, coffee, tea and spices. For example, the small batch Ethiopian coffee is picked by hand, sundried, and roasted using natural processes. 

“Our vision is to take the traveling public on a journey inside Africa’s deeply rooted and diverse cultures with a modern twist on imported goods from the continent,” said Mesh Tadesse, co-owner of Africa’s Best. “We are excited to be at SEA and hope to grow through the kiosk program to benefit our broader African community.”

“We source carefully and independently to introduce the world to the hardworking craftspeople who make these goods,” added Efrata Nadew, co-owner of Africa’s Best. “I particularly love the collection of camel leather goods that are gorgeous designs as well as scarves and apparel from woven cotton that is handpicked, spun, and dyed with incredible quality and talent.”

Retail at SEA 

Close to 40 retail shops are open at SEA with everything from travel essentials to luxury goods and Seattle-made souvenirs. Other recent openings, include Filson, SEA Pop Culture, and Natalie’s Candy Jar — all newcomers to the N Concourse. Arrive early to shop and discover at the airport or at exploreSEA.org

Would you like to do business with the Port? Learn more about bid opportunities with Diversity and Contracting

Contact

Perry Cooper | Port of Seattle Senior Media Officer
(206) 787-4923 | cooper.p@portseattle.org

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