By Kari Hawkins, USAG Redstone January 8, 2014
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- The official opening day for the new Express shopping center at the corner of Martin and Mills roads is now set.
Come Monday, the doors to this long-awaited convenience store and fast food center will open to Redstone Arsenal customers, many of whom work along the Martin Road corridor. The ribbon cutting and grand opening is set for 11 a.m.
"We are excited about offering this Express to the Redstone community," Roberto Montalvo, general manager of the Exchange, said.
"This side of the installation is really unexplored territory for us. But we believe this will do well here because of all the federal employees and contractors located on this side of the installation. Based on the demographics provided by the Department of Defense and the increasing population of Redstone Arsenal, we should be successful. As the Redstone community grows we absolutely want to grow with it."
The entire Redstone Arsenal community can enjoy the consumable offerings of the new Express shopping center, regardless of whether or not they are active or retired military. The exception to that is that only active, Reserve and retired military and their families can purchase gasoline, tobacco, alcohol, health and beauty products, or automobile or household supplies. Those who live on Redstone Arsenal are also provided those same privileges per authorization by the Garrison commander, except for tobacco.
"Our patronage is decided by Army Regulation 215-A," Montalvo said.
"The food and consumables we serve here are available for purchase by everybody who has access to Redstone. They can purchase any of our consumables. But all other items are limited to active duty, Reserve and National Guard, and prior military or those that live on the installation."
The Express shopping center is a new addition to the shopping and dining choices offered on Redstone. Those facilities are operated by the Army and Air Force Exchange Service or AAFES and include the Exchange, the Class 6/Express, Burger King, Church's Chicken, Anthony's Pizza, O'Charley's Subs, Firestone and other shopping choices located in the Vincent Drive/Goss Road shopping center as well as on-post cafeterias.
AAFES is a Department of Defense agency that provides merchandise and services of necessity and convenience at Army and Air Force installations to authorized customers and generates earnings to supplement appropriated funds that support Family and Morale Welfare and Recreation activities. AAFES operates 3,100 facilities in more than 30 countries, five U.S. territories and all 50 states, including 181 main stores and more than 1,000 fast food restaurants.
Redstone's new 6,860-square-foot Express shopping center on 10 acres adjoining Martin Road includes an Express/Class 6 convenience store, a Subway sandwich shop and a Burger King restaurant with a 25-car drive thru. Besides snacks and drinks, the Express also offers a Deli Express that includes F'Real Smoothies, Tornados, Java Cappucino, gourmet Icees, breakfast sandwiches and oatmeal, burritos and lunch sandwiches. There is a food court area where customers can dine.
While the Express/Class 6 and the Burger King were part of the initial plans, the Subway was added later due to customer demand.
"We did a survey of the Redstone community and one of the food concepts that most patrons on Redstone Arsenal wanted to see -- their favorite food concept -- was Subway. So, we decided to go with what our customers wanted," Montalvo said.
"Burger King was added because they are already here at Redstone, because there was space for a drive thru and because our Burger King is one of the largest volume Burger Kings in the East Central U.S. region for AAFES."
The Burger King on Vincent Drive in the Exchange/Commissary shopping center records about $100,000 in sales each month.
The Express/Class 6 also sells gasoline at eight fuel pumps, tobacco and liquor. But these items are only available to customers who have a military identification card.
Just behind the Express shopping center is a Redstone Federal Credit Union branch that opened in April. In addition, there is room to add a third food concept to the Express shopping center at a later date.
The initial request for the Express shopping center was prepared at the East Central U.S. region headquarters and then presented to the Exchange board of directors in 2008 during a meeting at its headquarters in Dallas. A construction budget of $5.7 million was approved in 2010 and then received approval from Congress. During 2012, the project was in the design phase.
Construction began in March and was overseen by real estate project manager Curtis Kitchens of the Dallas headquarters. The contractor was CCI Construction.
Montalvo said monthly projected sales at the new Express/Class 6 are $86,000 in retail, $78,000 for Burger King and $44,000 for Subway. It is projected that 15,000 gallons of gasoline will be sold each week.
"Increased traffic is this area means more sales and more dividends to the community," Montalvo said.
Of the earnings at the new facility, 65 to 67 percent will be returned to Redstone FMWR. In 2012, the Exchange returned an earnings total of $1.941 million to FMWR. The earnings total for 2013 will be available in February, but is projected to be $2.1 million. Projected earnings to be returned to FMWR in 2014, which will include earnings from the new Express shopping center, are estimated between $2.5 million and $2.6 million.
Other AAFES earnings are used to improve, renovate and expand its services. At Redstone, the Exchange will begin a major renovation in February of its main store and product lines. The total image upgrade is expected to be completed in September.
Greeting customers on Monday will be Express/Class 6 store manager John Wulff, food court manager Adam Shaw and a staff of 34 AAFES employees. The Express/Class 6 will be open Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. with the automated fuel center open 24/7. It will be the first AAFES store in the world to focus only on a Monday through Friday shopping concept.
"We are stressing our food offerings and being open during week days," Wulff said. "We hope to be a service to the Redstone employees who come to work along this corridor during the week."
AAFES actually owns the franchises for the Burger King, Subway and Express/Class 6 food services at the new shopping center.
"Combining three different food concepts into one building always presents construction challenges," Montalvo said. "But the result is a quality service for our customers."