JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas –
The Army and Air Force Exchange Service has opened the first stores and restaurants to customers at its new Exchange shopping center at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston.
On March 15, three restaurants – Starbucks, Arby’s and Qdoba – started serving customers in the Exchange’s food court, and most of the stores opened their doors in the shopping center’s mall area.
The JBSA-Fort Sam Houston Community Pharmacy was the first to open its doors at the Exchange center Feb. 1, followed by a dental clinic March 9.
The new 210,000-square-foot Exchange center, located on Funston Road, will include the main exchange, which is scheduled for a ribbon-cutting opening April 15. Because of COVID-19 restrictions, the ribbon-cutting will be limited to JBSA leaders and AAFES representatives.
With phased openings, eight restaurants will be housed in the food court and the mall area will consist of seven specialty stores, a beauty shop, barbershop, pharmacy, dental clinic and optical and optometry stores. The optical and optometry stores, which will be moving from their current location at the former commissary building, will open March 29.
Several kiosks will be located in the mall area, including permanent ones for Enterprise Rent-A-Car, jewelry and watch repair, and a gyro food kiosk next to the food court.
In addition, the current PXtra store, located at the intersection of Winfield Scott Road and Wilson Street will open in the new Exchange shopping center April 15.
The new $54 million Exchange shopping center replaces the former Exchange building, located at Henry Allen and Winfield Scott roads, which was built in 1971. The old Exchange center will be demolished to make room for an additional 800 parking spaces for the new Exchange shopping center.
Eddie Devlin, South Texas Area Exchange general manager, said the new Exchange center will provide a better shopping experience for customers.
“It’s a much bigger space and much more wide open than what we currently have,” said Devlin, referring to the space at the old Exchange center building, which is 133,000 square feet. “The space and layout are more conducive, and it will have a better flow.
“If you have been to (the old) Exchange,” he added, “you notice it’s sort of like a maze, and it has little cubby holes and sections that seem like they are set off from the regular sales floor. You are not going to have that in this store. Everything is part of the regular sales floor. The entire floor is viewable from the entryway.”
Customers will have more food options in the expanded food court at the new Exchange. Newer restaurants include Starbucks, Arby’s, Qdoba, Slim Chickens, Freshens and Sarku Japan. Two other food brands, Charley’s and Subway, are relocating their operations from the old Exchange center.
The new Exchange will also have more energy-efficient upgrades, including LED lighting and skylights throughout the entire building.
A cistern has been placed on the north side of the building to collect rainwater and water from runoff, which will be used for irrigation of landscaping around the building, Devlin said. Gray water piped in will also be used for irrigation and landscaping.
Customers and employees at the new Exchange are expected to follow COVID-19 guidelines, including wearing masks and social distancing. Social distancing decals are located on floors where lines form and there are clear shields at points of sale and at cash registers. Additionally, sanitation stations are available at the entrance of the Exchange and throughout the building.
The new Exchange shopping center will provide jobs for approximately 500 employees, permanent and temporary.
Devlin said he is excited that the new Exchange is finally opened to the JBSA community.
“It is long overdue for our community,” he said. “It is nothing but a win-win situation for the JBSA-Fort Sam Houston community and for the Exchange overall.”
(Editor’s note: The mention of non-federal organizations is simply informational and not intended to imply endorsement by the U.S. Government, the DOD, or the U.S. Air Force.)