News: Fort Myer Exchange renovations near completion
By Rhonda Apple
Pentagram Staff Writer
FORT MYER, Va. - Holiday shopping and renovations are going on simultaneously at the Fort Myer Army and Air Force Exchange Service main exchange on the Fort Myer portion of Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall. However, the total store upgrade will not be complete until early 2014.
"There has been a slight delay [in completing renovation work] primarily due to the challenges of renovation within the store, and taking smaller areas as they were navigating through the store, so that actually slowed us down a little bit," said Nildy Eiley, general manager of Fort Belvoir/JBM-HH Army and Air Force Exchange Service. "With the building being dated, it has posed challenges for us."
Eiley said completion of work at the store’s main entrance is expected about mid-January, 2014.
"The delay is because of the pillars and different steel bars required to hold up the front of the store. The outdoor living area, which we are extending, is delayed due to structural issues. That’s when you run into challenges, dealing with a building’s structural issues and you often don’t know if there’s a problem until the [workers] get to those areas. That area probably won’t be done until right near Christmas," she said.
Eiley said the government furlough did not impact completion of the $4.8 million upgrade.
"Moving along, the mall-area is coming along really well," Eiley said in a Thanksgiving-week interview with the Pentagram. She said the store’s vendors relocated, with the exception of the alteration shop, which is not moving until early 2014. "The military clothing store will be delayed until possibly mid-February, 2014, and the reason for that is this store will be at the back area by outdoor living and until that area is completed, we’re using their space."
"Although the food court area will be set up, Subway won’t be relocated [from the express store] until the end of December," said Eiley. "The [old] food court area has actually tripled in size and customers have a ‘mall’ they can walk." The food court will include a customer dining area.
The optical shop, barber shop, flower shop and GNC shop are all back in their permanent locations at the main store.
She said although there is work to be completed, the store is organized and the on-going work would not impact the customer shopping experience.
Main Store Manager Stacy Firemoon-Saulsberry said the customer count has increased by about 30 percent since they re-opened the front entrance. "This is not the main entrance, but the front entrance," she said. "We’ve added more prestige brand concept shops to the store and customers see these brands, for example, in cosmetics and hand bags, when they first enter the store.
"The electronics area is in a nice location and is drawing the business, as well. When customers come in the store, they can see the TV wall."
Firemoon-Saulsberry said other improvements to the store included upgraded registers with turnstiles and conveyor belts at the check-out area; a convenient location in a corner near the front of the store for customer service and Western Union cash transfers and an overall improvement in the appearance of the sales floor. They also plan to carry more year-round items in the outdoor living area as opposed to seasonal items.
The Exchange will host a customer appreciation day Dec. 23. Eiley said customers are invited to come to the event and take advantage of some give-away items and tastings. "We want to show our appreciation to our customers for their patience during this renovation project."
Once the entire project is complete, the Exchange will host a grand reopening. "We’re projecting about February or March, 2014 as the completion date," said Eiley. "We’ll also have central air conditioning installed for summer.
"On behalf of the entire Exchange team, we want to thank our customers for being patient and supportive [during this renovation project]," she added. "They’ve also been very excited about what they’re seeing so far, and we want to invite our customers to shop here this holiday season."