Small Business Success Story

Midtown Spirits Wins Contract with Sacramento International Airport After Attending Training from Sacramento Valley SBDC 

Jason Poole, co-founder of Midtown Spirits and Preservation & Co, always knew that his award-winning Bloody Mary Mix would be a good fit for the Sacramento International Airport. “People drink [Bloody Mary’s] before going on flight, it’s always been a goal to have our mix served in the airport,” he says. “We hadn’t thought about having a location in airport, though.” But after learning about the Transportation Procurement training series, a yearly opportunity for small businesses to learn about doing business with transportation agencies, Jason and his business partner Dave Abrahamsen opened their minds to a new vision.  

Jason and Dave started Midtown Spirits in 2019, having known each other through the Sacramento restaurant scene for decades. A few years after Dave had joined Jason to work on his drink mix business, Preservation & Co., the pair decided to “complete the cocktail” by crafting their own liquor. After a tussle with permitting led them to pairing their booze service with a full kitchen opreation, Midtown Spirits launched as a full restaurant and Sacramento’s first distillery since Prohibition.  

For Jason, the training in 2023 came at the perfect time. The Transportation Procurement training program is a joint effort between Sacramento Valley SBDC and San Joaquin SBDC, designed to provide established businesses with the industry insight, technical know-how, and connections to bid on contracts from transportation agencies—from SMF and Sacramento Rapid Transit, to the San Joaquin Rail Commission and more. With the operations of Midtown Spirits’ flagship location steady, the prospect of opening a new concept at the airport with the support of a prime contractor seemed like the perfect way to get their brand to Sacramento’s frequent flyers. Jason attended every session of the online training, and made sure to be a well-known face at every event SMF’s concessionaire team attended.  

“I was going to meet anyone I could to make sure we had the best opportunity we could,” he says, reflecting on his attendance of the 2023 Transportation Summit in Lodi. “I wanted people to see we were dedicated—the more facetime we had, the more they realized we were dedicated to being a good partner.” 

With the knowledge that they gained during the training series—writing a capabilities statement, interpreting complex Requests for Proposals (RFP), and conducting market research—Jason and Dave were able to tackle the airport’s 2023 RFP.  

“The most valuable thing was just learning that there was the opportunity,” he says, adding that the support of the training made it feel attainable. “If it wasn’t for the Transportation Procurement program, the RFP would have come and gone. The outreach and making people aware of the opportunity was huge, we would have never known otherwise.” 

As a local brand that represents the best of Sacramento’s ambitious, creative hospitality professionals, Midtown Spirits fit squarely into the airport’s hopes for the new class of food and service concepts. With the 2023 RFP, the airport intentionally sought out restaurants and service providers that would highlight the region’s Farm-to-Fork identity, and support the businesses that make the region a community of excellent food and culture. 

“The airport is taking on additional work by working with local brands—but as much as we feel it benefits us, they also know there’s added benefit to featuring local brands,” he says. The Midtown Spirits team is excited to be working under Fly with Breeze, a large operator that will handle the lease and other administrative tasks while they maintain creative control of the concept.  “It will have authenticity—it’s not just something we’ll slap our name on.”   

With a buildout underway, patrons ready to relax with their preflight White Linen will have to wait just a bit: Midtown Spirits is set to open in Terminal B in 2025. In the meantime, Jason and Dave will keep their team busy with their location on 19th & S in midtown, and continue to refine their business strategy and vision.  

When asked what advice he would give to other aspiring airport concessionaires, Jason suggests taking advantage of the resources that can help you navigate the process, and actively search for opportunities.  

“Just know that they give you ample time to respond [to the RFP], and with the resources from SBDC and the airport, there is enough support to complete the bid,” he says, adding that taking your shot at unfamiliar obstacles is worth the challenge. “A lot of people wouldn’t have understood that [selling at the airport] is a thing that’s possible—it feels like some mythical unicorn that there’s no way to get involved in. But this course helped us find the pathway.”