Marine Corps Exchange displays polished look at grand opening
November 30, 2011
By Jim Dresbach
Large crowds filled the multi-tiered parking garage, parking lots and curb side spots surrounding the Marine Corps Exchange during its Nov. 17-20 grand opening weekend. Shoppers were lured by samples, freebies, sales and vendor demonstrations that showcased top-of-the--line products in a top-notch shopping complex.
After two years of planning and construction, the rough edges turned into a smooth, shining gem on the southern edge of Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall.
The gala was kicked off with a grand opening ribbon-cutting ceremony on Nov. 17, and the adversity faced to reach the opening of the newly added, 15,000 square feet of shopping space was documented by Marine Corps Community Services Director Roger Weger.
"Despite the challenges of keeping the store open amid the dust, the noise, the construction equipment, we were still able to provide world-class customer service due to the efforts of our astounding and exemplary MCX associates, MCCS staff and MCCS Marines," Weger said during the ceremony which was attended by 135 VIPs, store associates and military personnel. "We met each daily challenge that we commonly referred to as our crisis du jour. Whether planned or unplanned, power outages, regular Friday afternoon plumbing backups, failing air conditioning compressors, roof leaks, and not to mention being dealt from Mother Nature an ice storm, a hurricane, torrential rains, flooding and an earthquake thrown in for good measure. But through it all, like the Marines we serve, we adapted and we overcame."
The current MCX blueprint was conceived in May 2009 and included expanding to 57,000 square feet of shopping space. Also incorporated into the plan was the rearranging and addition of departments -- including the Marine Uniform Shop - and a new, first-floor Java Cafe designed to be a relaxing respite for shoppers. As plans and construction evolved, JBM-HH Marine command changed, but current Headquarters and Service Battalion, Headquarters Marine Corps Commanding Officer Col. Ira M. Cheatham remembered those who started and oversaw the vision.
"This is kind of like being handed the baton and handed a gift at the finish line," said Cheatham who took command toward the final phases of the construction. "Fortunately, I happen to be in command when we cut the ribbon, but a lot of work took place before I got here.
My predecessor, Col. [Roarke] Anderson was handed the idea and moved ahead with the idea and handed the idea to me, so I could benefit from it as well as everybody who is here." Deputy Joint Base Commander Lt. Col. Jennifer Blair was a part of the ribbon cutting ceremony and was pleased with the finished MCX product.
"This is a huge benefit for the Marines and the Army and the community," Blair said. "A lot of effort was put into the planning. This is pretty incredible."
Also incredible is the number of shoppers who ventured into the exchange from Thursday through Sunday. Marine Corps Community Services marketing officer Doriann Geller exacted the head count to be 10,969 visitors.
The firm responsible for the upgrade, Stellar Corporation of Jacksonville, Fla., was congratulated by Weger for delivering the MCX project ahead of schedule and under budget. The physical construction mission began when ground was broken in May 2010.
On Friday, MCX's Patriot Day, servicemembers were invited aboard for promotional items which included MCX shopping bags, free hot dogs and beverages. Fitness competitions, called MCX-treme, pitted Marine versus Marine and Marine versus Soldier in the pull-up, sit-up and the balance ball areas. On the Saturday Family Day, shoppers searched for parking spots from the Smith Gym area to Zembiec Pool due to a large influx of shoppers. Patrons had the opportunity to register for $100,000 worth of giveaways and door prizes during the four-day grand opening.
For additional photos of the exchange grand opening, including the event's ribboncutting, visit www.facebook.com/jbmhh.