A crowd of early morning shoppers lined up as early as 7:30 a.m. Saturday to celebrate the opening of the new Navy Exchange (NEX) store at Naval Support Activity Bethesda.
The new facility is approximately three times as large as the old one and, according to the store's manager, offers a greater variety of merchandise than many military exchanges.
“Because of the variety of shoppers that we have, both active and retired, we have tried to stock merchandise that reflects the diversity of our customers in terms of prices, styles and types of things you can purchase,” said Rick Pimentel, NEX Bethesda manager.
Items offered include everything from basic items, such as paper towels to high end clothing, electronics and appliances.
“It's our hope that this will be a magnet store,” said Capt. Frederick Kass, NSAB commanding officer. “By that, I mean we'd like to see people from around the region travel to NSAB to visit our exchange.”
The store opened to great fanfare with a performance by the U.S. Public Health Service choral ensemble, the U.S. Navy Ceremonial Band, U.S. Naval Academy cheerleaders, a formal ribbon cutting and autograph signings by several celebrities. Many at the event were excited to see the celebrities including Jarod “the Subway guy” Fogle, fitness professional Denise Austin, celebrity chef and Restaurant Impossible star Robert Irvine and 6th ranking world UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) fighter Phil Davis.
“I was very excited to see Robert Irvine,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Staci Gelb, who was shopping at the NEX with her family. “When you see these people on TV, you always wonder what they're really like and he (Irvine) actually took the time to talk to everyone he interacted with.”
Other features of the new store include a barber shop and salon, a food court and, in January, a satellite pharmacy of the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center will open.
The store also has several environmentally friendly design features including charging stations for electric vehicles and a “green roof.”
“The green roof will grow natural grass that will help insulate the store, keeping it cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter while using less electricity,” said Rico J. Macaraeg, the NEX public relations manager for the Northern District.
Macaraeg said that the store was designed and constructed to the Leadership in Energy Environmental Design Gold standard, which indicates a high level of eco friendliness.
Regular store hours are 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sundays.