There’s more to the Army and Air Force Exchange Service than just the Main Exchange. Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield’s AAFES manager George Ricker said AAFES is about 98 percent self-supporting and includes more than just the products and services offered at local exchanges, which date back to 1895.
A long list of stores and service providers at Stewart include the Main Exchange, several gas stations, barber shops and shoppettes, a furniture store, several franchise restaurants, a dry cleaner, an alteration shop and a flower shop. For a full listing of stores and services, Ricker suggests checking the Team Stewart website at www.stewart.army.mil/aafes/concessions-hours.asp. Judd Anstey, AAFES senior public-relations manager, said www.shopmyexchange.com also contains helpful information.
“We sell competitively and deliver the dividend back to the installation,” Ricker said. “We’ve recently spent a lot of money to upgrade the main store here.”
Ricker said AAFES actually is a franchise owner of most of the installation’s fast-food restaurants. He emphasized that anyone, including civilians working on or visiting Fort Stewart, can eat at the eateries on the base. That includes buying consumable items like snacks and drinks at a shoppette.
Working for AAFES is much like being in the service, said Ricker, who moved his family to Stewart in July 2013. He said it was his 15th move in 26 years working for AAFES.
“I actually opened the first PX in Iraq back in April 2003,” Ricker said.
He said about 25 percent of AAFES’ 460 employees at Stewart-Hunter are former military or the spouses of active-duty military. Some associates at Stewart’s Main Exchange have worked there for 45 years, he said.
“We see some of our (military) retirees at the main store two or three days a week,” he said. “They may not spend a lot of money, but they come here to re-connect with that military culture they’ve been a part of most of their lives.”
Anstey said that for the past 18 months, AAFES has worked on reducing expenses and improving sales. Part of that improvement includes “re-positioning” the store to make visible the name-brand products its customers are looking for. As an example, he said, last year AAFES removed about 900 magazines from its store shelves and replaced them with things customers wanted.
“You can’t have everything in one store,” Anstey said. “There’s only so much floor space, but our customers can still find what they’re looking for by shopping online.”
Anstey and Ricker said there are no plans to shut down any Main Exchanges. Ricker said Stewart-Hunter’s stores are not looking to cut back. In fact, with the entire 3rd ID back at Stewart, they’re planning to extend store hours next month.