Base exchange at RAF Lakenheath to reopen Feb. 25
January 31, 2005
RAF LAKENHEATH, England — The RAF Lakenheath base exchange will open at the end of February after 14 months and $7.8 million of renovations.
Rob Baker, the store manager, said the store will reopen on Feb. 25. A couple vendors in the expanded food court may need an additional week or two to open.
“It was due,” Baker said of the renovation that began in November 2003.
The store now has new wiring and improved lighting, along with new heating and air conditioning units. The vendor areas have been remodeled, and new bathrooms have been installed.
The most obvious change will be to the food court, which will now seat 208 people, a 25 percent increase. Additionally, Charlie’s Steakery, which serves grilled made-to-order submarine sandwiches, has been added, along with Cinnabon. Anthony’s Pizza, Frank’s Franks and Baskin-Robbins will return.
The store will have the same amount of shopping space, Baker said, but the clothing section will be expanded.
Since the exchange closed for the renovation, shoppers have had to travel to RAF Feltwell, about 10 miles down a narrow country road that weaves through a few villages.
The exchange was set up in a hangar, which, Baker pointed out, “was not designed for retail.”
The Army and Air Force Exchange Service made a decision, Baker said, to close the main store completely and move temporarily to RAF Feltwell rather than close the main store in sections while workers made the improvements.
Bruce Creed, the site manager for Mansell Construction of Swaffham, England, the main contractor, said the right decision was made.
“It was ultimately the best way of doing it,” Creed said.
He agreed with Baker that doing the project in phases would have doubled the amount of time required to complete it.
Once that decision was made, Baker said, the command made the hangar at RAF Feltwell available and $9 million worth of merchandise was moved.
“It definitely was an inconvenience to our customers,” he said. “You couldn’t pop over for lunch and be back at work.”
Sales have been off about 7 percent, he said, but the store still did $4.5 million worth of business during the Christmas shopping season.
The Lakenheath exchange did $35 million in sales last year, putting it behind those at Ramstein Air Base, Würzburg and Vogelweh in Germany. Baker said he expects to increase the sales figure to $41 million for 2005.