AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy — For some people, there’s nothing more relaxing than sitting down with a good book.

That’s about to be tested at Aviano, though.

The base’s BookMark is giving way to what others consider to be the ultimate relaxation — a day spa — in a series of domino-like moves that will transform the exchange-commissary mall.

“It’s going to be a major change,” said Gino Rakas, services manager for the Army and Air Force Exchange Service in northern Italy.

The transformation is an AAFES-wide initiative to standardize concessionaires common to many bases, such as flower stores and beauty and barber shops.

AAFES’ goal, Rakas said, is that “all the concessionaires will have the same look” within five years.

And Aviano’s shops, which should be refurbished by March 2006, will be the first complete set in Europe.

“We’re trying to limit, as much as we can, the interruption in service,” he said. But with all the movement going on, there’s bound to be some inconvenience.

For example, the BookMark has already relocated to the main exchange area, and exchange manager Mike Brennan said some customers have expressed concern that the selection will suffer in the new area.

But, Brennan said, the space allotted for books is about the same as it was before, and there’s also more room for magazines, the biggest sellers at the BookMark.

In fact, sales have risen in the first week since the relocation, he said.

“It’s one-stop shopping now,” he said. “You don’t have to stand in line at the exchange, then go to the bookstore and stand in line again.”

Other changes in store:

¶ A 24-hour shoppette will be built across the street from the commissary.

Construction on that facility — which will include a Box Office Video — will begin this month, said Paula Gunderson, the AAFES general manager for Italy. The projected opening date is August.

The facility also will feature a Eurocar rental agency.

¶ The former Bookmark location will now become home to an an Internet café, cappuccino bar, photography studio and a relocated gift shop.

¶ The flower shop is moving to a larger location.

¶ The day spa, featuring pedicures, manicures and massages — and possibly spray tanning — will open in the gift shop’s current location.

The day spa concept, while a new one for AAFES, has been popular at the few communities that have them. Vogelweh, Würzburg and Bamberg currently have day spas as do several bases downrange.

“The ones we have open are really popular with our customers,” said Debbie Byerly, an AAFES-Europe spokeswoman. She said other bases might see them as well. “We have to get space and have customer demand.”

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Kent has filled numerous roles at Stars and Stripes including: copy editor, news editor, desk editor, reporter/photographer, web editor and overseas sports editor. Based at Aviano Air Base, Italy, he’s been TDY to countries such as Afghanistan Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia. Born in California, he’s a 1988 graduate of Humboldt State University and has been a journalist for 40 years.

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