MARTINSBURG - After eating lunch at the Altoona-Blair County Airport, Steve Houp and Maryann Baker of Martinsburg watched the arrival of the afternoon commuter aircraft.
"It is a nice view from here," Houp said as bags were loaded onto the plane. "And it's nice to have this restaurant open. It's someplace different to go."
Roger Hull of Curwensville, Clearfield County, who opened the Bamboo Garden restaurant about a year ago in Altoona's Orchard Plaza, said he looked at the former Kitty Hawk restaurant that had been vacant about two years.
Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec / Server Tara Butler chats with customers Maryann Baker and Steve Houp, both of Martinsburg, Wednesday afternoon at the Altoona-Blair County Airport’s Kitty Hawk Restaurant.
"I really wasn't looking to open another restaurant," Hull said. "But then I came here and I saw how big it is, how nice it is, the view, and I thought it would be worth a shot."
In May, Houp and the Altoona-Blair County Airport Authority signed a lease that led to Wednesday's opening. A few months ago, the authority members spoke of trying to market the former restaurant as a site of catered dinners or dividing the space into offices that could be rented.
Airport Authority Manager Tim Hite, who has been trying for months to find someone interested in operating the airport restaurant, said he hopes Hull does well.
For the first three months, the authority showed its support for Hull's venture by asking for no rent, Hite said. Thereafter, Hull will pay $800 per month from April through October and $400 per month from November through March, based on the anticipated difference in patronage.
The lease also calls the restaurant to pay all utilities except the heating, ventilating and air conditioning costs, which the authority will cover.
Hull said the restaurant's menu will feature home cooking, plus pies and bread made from scratch.
"We want to serve items as fresh as they can be," Hull said. "We're hand-cutting our french fries ... and breading our chicken breasts. It's not fast food that we're going be serving, and it's not boil-in-bag food either. ... So it may take a little longer, but the food will be fresh."
Most dinners will sell for $10 to $13, he said, while lunches and breakfasts will cost less than $10.
Hull said he hopes word-of-mouth will attract business and that those who work on the airport grounds will use the restaurant. A private aircraft owner from York who stopped by Wednesday promised to contact other aircraft owners and make them aware, he said. A group of 35 women who belong to a Red Hat Society chapter have already scheduled their reservation later this month.
"A lot of people have known for two years that there's been no restaurant here," Hull said. "So I'm hoping word gets around."
Waitress Tara Butler of East Freedom said she was glad the restaurant opened.
"It's my first waitress job, and I like it so far," she said.
Butler is one of nine full-time employees at Kitty Hawk.
Hull said he might add part-timers, depending on business. To get the restaurant started, he scheduled the hours for 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays and from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Kitty Hawk will be closed Mondays and Tuesdays.
"If we see the community support, we can make adjustments in the hours," Hull said. "And on Sundays, we're going to be the only place open for about 15 miles, so I'm hoping we'll be really busy."