15:44 PM

Heather Hollister, Bradford Logistics

Before any fresh produce makes its way to Tampa International Airport’s restaurants, before any wines make their way to the bars, before any magazines or Florida-themed t-shirts get stocked on the shelves, they must pass through a rigid inspection process at the Concessions Receiving and Distribution Center.

The 20,000-square-foot holding cell, if you will, is where all food and items heading to TPA’s airsides must pass TSA safety standards much like people pass through screening, and then where all of the cardboard is returned for recycling and where Metropolitan Ministries picks up unpurchased grab-and-go food at the end of the day.

Amid all the activity, Heather Hollister is a calm presence among her team.

The Bradford Logistics Operations Supervisor oversees 12 logistics supervisors at the facility and the terminals who help ensure all 69 of TPA’s new shops, spas and restaurants get their products and food, a process that begins with trucks rolling up around 3 a.m. each day. It’s a busy hub of activity that ebbs and flows, and Heather loves watching it all unfold.

“It’s crazy,” she said. “But a fun crazy.”

Heather’s the right person for the job, having managed cargo and shipping logistics for most of her career. She worked as a ramp supervisor and an air planner overseeing logistics for United Parcel Service at the Atlanta, Orlando and St. Petersburg airports for more than 20 years, and sometimes still runs into former UPS coworkers now that UPS operates out of TPA.

Heather took an early retirement about five years ago, but after a couple of years she was bored. 

“I found that I really missed working,” she said. “I missed the people and the daily interactions. I had my friends but it wasn’t the same as being around coworkers and new people all the time.”

When Bradford Logistics took over the CRDC operations in early 2016, they recruited Heather back into the workforce to help supervise the new team. It was the first facility to open as part of the historical expansion of TPA and its concession redevelopment, and Heather was a perfect fit to run the ins and outs of the daily deliveries.

Growing up in Hartford, Conn., Heather always loved aircraft and aviation and many of her relatives flew planes. Her great uncle’s claim to fame is he built a plane and worked as an aircraft mechanic for Wiley Post, the first pilot to fly solo around the world. Naturally, she was drawn to planes and loved settling into a career than put her around aircraft every day.

One of three sisters, Heather was the tomboy of the family who always liked to be active and work with her hands. When she was a teenager, her father – a salesman who later became a pastor and a missionary – moved the family from Connecticut to Florida to avoid another winter in their rural neighborhood shoveling snow.

Heather graduated from Seminole High and attended college in Georgia. She then got into “riding a bicycle a lot,” so much that the owner of a bike club took her under his wing and convinced her to get into road racing.

Next thing she knew, Heather was a member of the Dutch women’s Olympic cycling team headed to the 1984 Summer Games. Because of a widespread boycott by several nations that year, including the Netherlands, Heather never got the chance to compete.

During her training, however, she worked part-time for UPS, which led her to a several years of doing what she loved, even up until now as a retiree returned to the daily grind.

Today, Heather describes herself as a “homebody” who enjoys gardening, kayaking and spending time outdoors in her free time. She lives in St. Petersburg, and lately she’s gotten into a “nerdy” hobby that surprised her: Researching genealogy.

“I never liked history in school,” Heather said. “But now I’m learning a lot of family history and it’s coming alive for me.”