A portion of the main store is curtained off as the reimaging project continues. (Photo Credit: Photo by Jim Hughes) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- The improvements keep coming in the Army and Air Force Exchange Service main building that houses the post exchange, food court, Four Seasons and vendor outlets.

While Starbucks and Qdoba Mexican Eats are fully operational and putting smiles on people’s faces, and other infrastructure improvements are complete, work continues on the reimaging project, according to Brenda Hyland, Maxwell, Fort Rucker and Gunter Exchange general manager.

“The work started in mid-November of 2020 and, so far, they’ve put in a new HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning system), new lighting, a new ceiling, new ductwork, polished concrete floors, new paint and other improvements in the Four Seasons area, the mall and the food court,” she said. “Qdoba and Starbucks also have opened – people really seem to be enjoying them.”

Customers will also enjoy the new HVAC systems, complete with all-new ductwork, come the summer. The system in the Four Seasons is complete, while work continues in the food court and main store systems, Hyland said, adding that a new bathroom facility for customers is also up and running in the main store.

Which is good because the bathroom area in the mall section is under renovation, along with work still going on to improve infrastructure for the food court, which resulted in the closings of Popeye’s and Subway for the time being, and Charley’s will close in the near future once needed materials arrive. The entrance near the Four Seasons is also getting a facelift, as well, she said.

Other work going on or scheduled to begin soon includes reimaging work in the main store, to include new lighting, floor polishing and new fixtures, and also moving the Power Zone to where the cleaning supplies, and health and beauty section is, the general manager added.

The main store will also be getting a new jewelry counter, an expanded center pad where the men’s department is now for premium handbags, and a Be Fit area for athletic shoes and sportswear, “targeting the community we are a part of,” Hyland said, adding that people will see dust coverings up where the work is going on.

“The store team has worked really hard to move the merchandise in that area into other parts of the store, so we don’t lose representation of the merchandise,” she said.

Construction workers are also doing the majority of the noisy, dusty work at night to avoid impacting customers’ shopping experience at the store, she said.

Future work will include a facelift for the main entrance, including new sliding glass doors and a more modern appearance, Hyland said, adding that August is the new target date for all work being completed on the reimaging project.

“It is a really exciting time for us,” she said. “The big events were the openings of Qdoba and Starbucks, and the whole facelift in the food court – it looks like a new place. We have all new furniture out there, and the booths have USB ports so people can charge their devices while sitting there. It’s really made it much cozier and more comfortable to hang out there. Considering how many students we have on Fort Rucker, I think it’s a nice place for them to be able to go, and can catch up with family and friends on their devices, and get lunch, or get coffee and a snack – it’s something that was really lacking before. We’re happy we were able to secure these things for our community.”

The general manager also thanked customers for their patience and great attitudes while all the work has gone one.

“I really hope that they are enjoying the upgrades as much as we are – they seem as excited about it as we are,” she said. “I thank them for their patience during the process because last year during the summer the food court was really torn up. Hang in there – we’re almost there!”

She also thanked her staff for their resilience, and commitment to the AAFES mission and their customers.

“Thanks to all of our associates for doing such a great job and hanging in there – they have truly been troopers,” Hyland said. “It’s exciting, but it can also be wearing. Everyone has been really fabulous throughout the whole process. A construction project of this magnitude always has the potential to not be fun to go through, but because everyone has really pulled together and are being so wonderful, it’s been a joy instead.

“Everyone has been able to focus on the wonderful parts of it and the excitement of getting new facilities – thank you from bottom of my heart to everyone,” she said, adding that support from command and the garrison has been wonderful, as well. “I’m really grateful we have such a wonderful community and installation.”

In AAFES news not related to the upgrades, the main store will close at 4 p.m. Jan. 26 for annual inventory instead of its normal 6 p.m. closure time.

To stay up to date on all AAFES news, including hours and closures, follow the organization on Facebook or download the Digital Garrison app.