Central Ohio has put its hicksville reputation behind it—except at the airport.
Columbus is increasingly becoming known as a smart and sophisticated city.
Yet some visitors shopping at the John Glenn Columbus International Airport see a much different image of the city. Despite massive efforts in the past decade to make the region a top place to live and visit, cow-tipping and farm-themed items are still for sale in at least one airport gift shop.
That shop, Capital City Travelmart, is run by Atlanta’s Paradies Lagardère, which operates airport stores across the nation. So how many people buy the “Columbus, Ohio Certified Cow Tipper” magnets or cow-themed Ohio snow globes? Paradies’ regional marketing director didn’t respond to messages seeking answers to that question, though according to news reports, the company only stocks items people buy.
Airport spokeswoman Angie Tabor doesn’t seem worried about a bad impression. “From the atrium mosaic with vibrant Columbus imagery to Land-Grant beer and Donatos pizza, from exhibits of work by local artists to the interior of the jet ways wrapped with eye-catching photos highlighting the visitor experience, John Glenn International celebrates the spirit of Columbus,” Tabor said in an email. “I’m not overly concerned with a 2x2 magnet.”
The city’s convention and visitors’ bureau also defended the airport. “Through recent updates and renovations, the airport has done a fantastic job of portraying Columbus as the vibrant and thriving destination that it is,” Experience Columbus said.
For the record, Columbus CEO staffers aren’t the only ones who’ve wondered about these airport novelties. “We need to get rid of these kind of messages at the airport,” local ice cream queen Jeni Britton Bauer told Columbus Monthly in 2017. “They play into an untrue stereotype of our city, and they’re not going to go away unless we demand it. It’s insulting and deflating to come home to this, but it’s worse if this is your first impression of Columbus—it’s going to take a lot to flip that back around.”