Wounded warriors, active duty, retirees and their families won't have far to travel to fulfill most of their shopping needs when the new Navy Exchange (NEX) store opens at Naval Support Activity Bethesda Saturday.
The grand opening ceremony for the 150,000 square-foot, two-level store will begin at 10 a.m., and the ribbon cutting will open the store for business at 11:00 a.m., according to Rico J. Macaraeg, public relations manager, Northern District, NEX.
"This will be the biggest [event] we have ever done in the Navy Exchange,” said Macaraeg. “The grand opening will be a fun-filled day full of activities, sales and attended by a host of celebrity guests.”
Macaraeg added the new NEX is "bigger and better," offering customers more than three times the size of the previous 45,000 square-foot facility.
In addition to a credit union, barbershop, beauty salon, optical shop, food court and flower shop, the store will also have men's, women's, and children's departments, as well as shoes, jewelry, fragrance and cosmetic, electronics, computer, and appliances areas. The store will also include an "ambassador service," similar to the blue coats in Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC), to assist customers with information, directions, reservations at the Navy Lodge or local hotels, and personal shopping assistance. "The sky is the limit with our ambassadors," Macaraeg said.
"When we did focus groups and marketing surveys, we took all the information and results into account when building the store," Macaraeg said. "From wider aisles for accessibility, multiple elevators, parking concerns and even a one stop shop concept with food courts to dry cleaning."
The new NEX has two parking levels providing customers 501 total spaces, according to Macaraeg. He also explained the new store was constructed employing several energy-saving concepts to meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards at the GOLD rating. The store will include natural lighting as well as light sensors (to adjust with the natural lighting) to help conserve energy. Also to meet LEED standards, the NEX used recycled materials where applicable to reduce the cost and production of new material, he added.
Topping the store is a green roof with grass and vegetation to help insulate the building and keep it cooler during the summer and warmer in the winter. "The grass roof helps efforts in reducing carbon foot print by gathering rain water in an effort to reduce water runoff and keep water usage down by having it water and maintain the greenery on the roof," Macaraeg explained.
Regular hours for the store will be from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Holiday hours will be extended, according to Macaraeg. "We will adjust hours to support our customer needs," he said.
"I think the opening of the new NEX is a wonderful idea," said Sgt. Rodrigo Santos, a Walter Reed Bethesda wounded warrior with B Company, 3rd Platoon. He said he is looking forward to be able to shop closer to where he lives on base.
Sgt. Julio Larrea, a below-the-knee amputee Soldier who continues on active duty, agreed. "I am all in favor of having such a facility open locally.” He added, "Competitive prices [to stores off base] would be outstanding." He noted family members must consider expenses when they are here taking care of their loved ones in recovery.
"I can't wait until Nov. 10 gets here," said retired Army Sgt. 1st Class Timothy Leathers, program manager for Contingency Resources in the Office of Emergency Management at Walter Reed Bethesda. "We've been waiting a long time to see what the new NEX will bring to WRNMMC. I was not here to see the previous NEX, but this one is going to be much larger and will offer more products to meet our shopping needs. I'm also glad to see the new garage that was built to support the customers."
Leathers said he looks forward to the convenience and quality merchandise the NEX will offer. "We will be able to stop off and buy that quick item as we leave the base. Even more, we do not have to travel long distances to another NEX, Base Exchange (BX) or Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) for our shopping needs.”
Macaraeg said the store has introduced over 200 new positions into the local economy of Bethesda, full-time, part-time and flex, with several job fairs and encouraging people to apply online at mynavyexchange.com and clicking on the link, "Work For Us."
For more information about the NEX, Rico Macaraeg the public relations manager may be reached at at firstname.lastname@example.org.