MINNEAPOLIS -- The business of Prince has taken the next step: a store at the airport.
In the three years since the superstar musician's death, Paisley Park has been turned into a tourist site, his recording vault has been mined for new releases and tribute events have multiplied around the Twin Cities.
Last month, an entrepreneur working with the licensor of Prince's estate opened a shop in Terminal 1 at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. And on Monday, more than 50 passengers gathered at its grand opening despite long delays in security lines.
DJ Dudley D, Prince's resident DJ, spun tunes from the artist's prodigious catalog as travelers checked out albums, commemorative jackets, books and T-shirts.
"I'm not sure if Prince would like having this store, but I see it as a way to keep his legacy alive by making him visible," said Caitlyn Tromiczak, a former Minnesotan who was traveling to her home in Washington D.C. "We're honoring him by making him more available to fans."
The store is the brainchild of Pady Regnier, Isabella Rhawie and reps from Bravado, Prince's licensee.
Regnier, CEO of Airport Retail Group, which operates nine stores at MSP, and Rhawie, retail manager of concessions for Metropolitan Airports Commission, originally conceived a pop-up store of Prince items for the Super Bowl and other events last year. They met with Bravado, the merchandising arm of various rock bands, and other people associated with the Prince estate before deciding on a permanent store.
Regnier thinks Prince is the rare artist whose legacy can support an airport retail store. "Prince loved Minnesota and fans world wide loved him," she said. "We've heard of people changing their flights with an MSP connection just to visit the store."
Regnier doesn't know of other airports that have devoted a retail space to their local celebs. She said the idea may work elsewhere, such as a Bruce Springsteen store in the New York-Newark area.
"You have to really think this through," she said. "Some artists resonate a sense of place and an emotional impact, like Prince and Springsteen, and some don't."
Regnier said there are plenty of minefields -- fickle fans, licensing issues, and approval of artists or estates -- not to mention that such stores are only likely to make a profit at very large airports.
"I'm a huge David Bowie fan," Regnier said. "But I don't know if that would work even in New York, where he lived, or London, where he grew up."
It's only been six weeks since the Prince store opened, but sales are 40% ahead of plan so far, Regnier said.
Germaine Grueneberg, director of merchandising at the Airport Retail Group, said the store is set up as a chronology of Prince's life. Three sections include Uptown, Purple Rain and Paisley Park. Merchandise prices range from $5 to $250.
"It almost has a museum feel," she said. "You can learn about Prince through books, albums and if you want more, we offer tickets to Paisley Park (in Chanhassen.)"
The airport store does not generate any revenue from ticket sales.
The space occupied by the Prince store, across from the Stone Arch restaurant at the south end of the mall anchoring the concourses, has a two-year lease.
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