Historic Post Exchange opens at Fort Belvoir
June 19, 2013
Fort Belvoir celebrated the grand opening of its new 270,000 square foot Exchange Wednesday, with a ribbon cutting ceremony.
The new Army and Air Force Exchange Service facility is the largest branded store in the continental United States and incorporates the main store, food court, home and garden, military clothing sales, concessions and a satellite pharmacy all in one shopping complex.
"Today is the day we get to open the facility to benefit all servicemembers and retirees," said Nildy Eily, Fort Belvoir AAFES general manager. "This day has been years in the making. Wow, we finally made it."
The Exchange now has 22 mall stores, 12 more than the old PX which includes additions to the food court and retail areas. New additions to the food court include Starbucks, Subway, Pizza Hut and Popeye's Chicken. Charley's Grilled Subs, Burger King, and Taco Bell moved over from the old PX.
The new Exchange is also Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Silver rated. The rating took into account the 958 space parking lot, made of pervious concrete, a special type of concrete with a high porosity that allows water from precipitation and other sources to pass directly through, thereby reducing the runoff from a site and allowing groundwater recharge.
AAFES decided to open the store on a Wednesday to give the staff a chance to get used to maintaining a level of service with a high volume of customers.
"A mid-week opening gives us a chance to work out all of the bugs during the week," said Eily. "That way we are well situated for the weekend."
Tom Shull, Director and Chief Executive Officer of AAFES and U.S. Army Garrison Fort Belvoir Commander, Col. Gregory D. Gadson, were invited to make remarks during the opening ceremony.
The store opening is an example of AAFES's support and dedication to servicemembers, according to Shull.
"It's making this experience better than any experience they get outside the gate," said Shull. "It's trying to represent the very best of what they could get outside the gate, here, so they feel like this is an extension of their home."
Additionally, the facility brings the modern shopping experience to Fort Belvoir, said Gadson.
"Today we open a store that has everything you want or need under one roof," said Gadson. "It will take your breath away."
The grand opening ceremony featured prizes and giveaways from Exchange vendor partners to include a shopping spree and handbags, live entertainment and an autograph session with former Washington Redskins great, Brian Mitchell.
The added stores, space, and convenience of having the military clothing and home and garden stores under one roof is exciting for servicemembers, retirees and their Families, according to Staff Sgt. Chris Stout, 249th Engineer Battalion (Prime Power), specialist.
"It's really hard to describe how vast an improvement this is," said Stout. "The clothing store was so small, and to have the home and garden shop in a different place made me have to go from one side of post to the other. Now, I can come to one location to do all my shopping."
Another Soldier who attended the grand opening, Sgt. 1st Class Franklin Mejias, feels this new facility is an example of the commitment AAFES has to serving all servicemembers.
"I feel their commitment is very strong especially with the Soldiers we have deployed right now," said Mejias. "AAFES does a lot for them, so to have a facility like this open stateside; I know this is the future of AAFES. I hope we start seeing more facilities like this opened at other installations."
The opening of the new Exchange is an example of what's to come from AAFES, said Shull, as they try to further customize their facilities to the needs of servicemembers and their Families.
"Our future lifestyle centers will have theaters," said Shull. "So, it will be a holistic approach to the servicemember's lifestyle. We are making sure we capture what servicemembers and their Families need."