Meet SLA Worldwide, an Airport Concessions Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (ACDBE) operator at Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) which introduced the Lily Palmer Flowers and Gift shop, 1920 Merch and the Everything Travel Store to the airport in the last year. Programs like PHL’s ACDBE help socially, and economically disadvantaged small business owners compete against larger firms for airport contract opportunities.
Next month, SLA Worldwide in partnership with owner Celeste Krenz, will introduce Urban Juicer, in Terminal F’s food court.
SLA also recently opened The Everything Travel Store in Terminal D. The shop is powered by Amazon’s Just Walk Out Technology, allowing passengers to use their credit cards upon entry and leave without waiting in line. Using Artificial Intelligence (AI), shoppers cards are charged with the items they take from the store.
SLA Worldwide founder and CEO Sandra Long is excited about the store and loves its catchphrase, ‘if you forgot it, we got it!’
“As an ACDBE, I’m happy to collaborate with a global iconic company like Amazon,” said Long. "Unique and one of a kind are two good ways to describe the store. You still don’t see anything similar in the marketplace using AI to disrupt the way we shop in an airport. We’re laying the foundation of change for the way we shop at airports.”
Although SLA Worldwide has been in the works for years, it officially started in 2017. Long began at Nashville International Airport, where she brought local brands into the airport setting. “Travelers want to see local, unique and different concepts in an airport,” said Long. “People want innovation and that’s what SLA is at our core. I think we’re going to be known as retail innovators in airport spaces.”
The feedback Long has received about the new stores from passengers has been positive. They enjoy the uniqueness of 1920 Merch, a shop that focuses on a women’s right to vote. They also like finding flowers in an airport like those available at SLA’s Lily Palmer Flowers and Gift shop.
The name Lily Palmer has an interesting backstory. Long’s mother loved flowers and was a horticulturalist for 50 years. Since she was busy raising a family and never got the chance to open a flower shop, Long decided to start one in her honor. Lily was Long’s great grandmother’s name and just so happened to be Long’s mother’s favorite flower. Palmer, pays homage to Long’s mother’s favorite golfer, Arnold Palmer.
Airports across the country have expressed interest in introducing Lily Palmer Flowers and Gift shop. “It’s a testament to Marketplace PHL being on the cutting edge of what’s happening, being innovative and trying new things,” said Long. “My relationship with Marketplace has been great. They’ve given me a shot at things we haven’t done before.”
Through her work at the airport, Long remains fascinated with travel and is passionate about customer service. She believes it’s important to continue to create concepts that appeal to the traveler. Providing food, gifts, and flower options for travelers combines everything she loves about the guest experience.
“Urban Juicer is one of my favorites,” said Long. “Travelers today want to eat well on-the-go. The store will provide salads, wraps, bowls, and smoothies. There’s honor in feeding people. If someone sits at your table, you want to give them something healthy.”
Long also appreciates the employee-focused approach of business which emphasizes the human resources aspect of day-to-day operations. “HR is king,” she said. “You only exist because of the people who have bought into your concept.”
Throughout her years of entrepreneurship, Long has continuously introduced new concepts. “My advice to young entrepreneurs is that although it can be difficult, it’s also rewarding,” said Long. “Learn as much as you can about your passion and business. Also, don’t be afraid to make mistakes. You get back up and you go back at it again. That is the true sense of entrepreneurship."