It’s finally here.
After several years of construction, some roadblocks and “moving mountains,” according to one official, the new Post Exchange opened in Hainerberg Housing area April 17 following a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Hundreds of eager shoppers streamed in as soon as the ribbon fell Friday morning to see the long-awaited facility for themselves. With 94 percent more space than the old PX, the new 155,000-square-foot Exchange shopping center now has enough room to house the main exchange store, Outdoor Store, Toyland, furniture store, Barber Shop, Spa and Stylique Salon, TKS, Petals and Blooms floral shop, Harley Davidson, Military Auto Source, Kickz shoe store, a food court, Community Bank, Andrews Federal Credit Union, a USO office, Army Recruiters Office, PowerZone and Starbucks — plus other vendors — all under one roof.
Other features include an updated brick façade and food court, updated signage, new finishes and polished concrete floors.
The Exchange’s makeover includes updated shopping sections for Michael Kors, Ellen Tracy, The North Face and Under Armour. The cosmetics department was expanded, too, with top-of-the-line brands like Smashbox and Too Faced. The electronics section has been amped up with name brands like Bose, Samsung, Sony and Apple.
“I like that everything is in one place,” said Fran Rodgers, a community member standing in the checkout line with a basket of items shortly after the ribbon cutting. “It’s pleasant to be in the building, and they did a good job of laying everything out.”
It took “a lot of work and hours,” according to one associate. He measured the effort by the 12,000 steps a day logged on his pedometer from moving merchandise into the new store.
The work didn’t go unnoticed. The success is credited to “relationships,” said Col. Geoff DeTingo, commander of AAFES Europe and Southeast Asia, at a special opening ceremony the night before.
“This building represents relationships. It would not be here without relationships. You guys moved mountains, literally,” he said, turning to address the associates behind him.
“This is going to be really good for the area,” said John Crawford, sales area manager for the PowerZone, a 20-year AAFES employee and veteran of three other Exchange openings. “We’re going to change the community a lot. (The new store) is cleaner, friendlier and more modern.”
“We can take pride in it more,” added Alice Blase, a PowerZone senior store associate.
In addition to returning more than $1 million to the community from revenue in 2014, the new mall will have a positive effect on the environment, said Exchange Business Manager Brad Nisbett.
“This newly renovated facility drastically reduces the footprint left from operating multiple outdated facilities, which significantly decreases consumption levels through ‘green’ initiatives,” Nisbett said.
A green roof that covers 41 percent of the building was installed to decrease energy consumption. Eight thousand square feet of skylights reduce the need of additional lighting while supplying an open and welcoming natural view of the facility. The facility is completely automated, keeping internal temperatures at a comfortable level. It is also future-ready, with a reinforced roof for expansion of solar panels, or updates to its fully automated HVAC system.
The construction itself was a combined effort between the Army and Air Force Exchange Service, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-Europe District, U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden and the State of Hessen.
“This celebration is symbolic of the longstanding relationship between Hessen and U.S. Army Europe.
We are involved almost daily in the Army construction here in Wiesbaden,” said Elmar Damm, chief of facilities and construction at the Hessian Ministry of Finance. “I’m very happy we have reached this milestone together. This construction project was under a lucky star — bright from the beginning.”
One of the most anticipated features of the new facility is the Starbucks coffee shop next to the food court, a short walking distance for Hainerberg Housing residents. It features the most recent decor for a franchise and is one of the largest in terms of floor space, according to Neeraj Gupta, director of NuVision, the organization responsible for setting up the franchise.
What’s more, 90 percent of the staff are military spouses in the community.
“They help give our store that home feeling,” he said. A breakfast bar situated behind the baristas was also added to “create a feeling that you’re connected to the baristas.”
“The Wiesbaden Shopping center is more than just a modern-day shopping experience,” added Wiesbaden Exchange General Manager Dan Barriga. “It’s a community center where everyone can go and enjoy themselves.”
However, not all shoppers were thrilled with the selection.
“I was hoping there would be more baking and cooking and home stuff,” said Teresa Daniel, holding a basket of Martha Stewart products in the checkout line, “but I’ll take what I can get.”
The PX is open to Department of Defense ID cardholders with commissary and PX privileges. It is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.