Q&A with Chris James of LaTrelle’s Management Corp.

Published April 27, 2022

Chris James

Chris James is business development director for LaTrelle's Management Corporation, which partners with the Portland-born Stumptown Coffee Roasters to operate two cafes at PDX: one in the security lobby between Concourses C and D, and another in Concourse E. (A third location is coming to Concourse D soon.)

Houston-based LaTrelle’s, founded by Chris’s grandfather in 1985, manages locations for 13 regional and national brands (Wendy's, Potbelly, Peet's Coffee) at five airports, but it's still run like a family business. PDX talked to Chris—who grew up visiting family in the Portland area—about what makes Portland's airport so special and what entrepreneurs who want to open a PDX spot should know.

LaTrelle's has opened restaurants at five airports. What have been the challenges of working at PDX?
Most of these challenges are the same in any airport. The costs of operating in an airport are greater than with a street unit. You sometimes encounter extra costs that come out of nowhere. Your wages are much higher. That's not a problem, just the reality. 

One challenge at PDX is the street pricing policy, so you have to match the prices on the street but with those higher airport costs. However, the volume makes up for it. The year our Stumptown cafe opened, it became the number-one Stumptown in the entire platform for sales.

Is the relationship between Portlanders and PDX different?
We do social media searches for our 35 locations. [Before the main location opened,] our most talked-about location was people from Portland talking about how excited they were to have Stumptown coffee in the airport. You could tell that for Portlanders, there was excitement in the community to have that iconic coffee there. People still frequently post photos at our PDX location to Instagram.

What are the benefits and challenges for local businesses of partnering with a management company like LaTrelle's?
Partnering can ease the financial burden. We've done this for almost 40 years, so we know the ins and outs of working with airports. If you think your brand works at an airport, but you're not sure, it's definitely worth having a conversation. We've mentored other companies to help them get into airports. It's good to have a mix of small and large businesses operating in the airport.

Want to open your next location at PDX? Talk to us.