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Exchange unveils $3.5 million remodel

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Project came in under budget, on time

By Gina Clear

After seven months of renovations, Fort Knox Exchange customers now can shop in a construction-free store.

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The Exchange, formerly known as the Post Exchange or PX, held a grand re-opening ceremony Friday to welcome customers to its updated 94,000-square foot store. Last renovated in 1994, the store is part of the U.S. Army and Air Force Exchange Service, which also manages movie theaters and restaurants.

Throughout renovations, the store remained open by moving displays, “as the customers can attest to,” said General Manager Rick Fair.

“(The customers) patiently endured shopping in a construction site,” Fair told a crowd gathered for the grand opening. “(They) endured coming to shop not knowing where products are because they aren’t where they were yesterday.”

Total cost for the renovations came in at $3.5 million, $1.5 million under budget, said Col. T.J. Edwards, Fort Knox garrison commander.

“They did this without missing a beat and without closing the store,” Edwards told the crowd. “My hat is off to (the employees) to accomplish it under budget, on time and to standard.”

The project came in under budget because they reduced its scope where possible to “do things better and less expensive.” For example, carpet squares were used instead of carpet rolls, he said.

Renovation money came from the store’s cash registers and not taxpayer money, Fair added. Money spent at the store pays for the post’s Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation programs, including the Exchange, he said.

Store manager Neal Smart said more savings were found in labor and travel costs. Instead of bringing in staff from other Exchange stores throughout the region to help build fixtures and move displays, his staff completed all these duties.

“They worked together as a team,” he said. “They were unbelievable.”

Now that the store is re-opened, Edwards said there’s a familiarity to it many shoppers can appreciate.

“Psychologically, in the military you are always on the move,” he said. “You’re always experiencing something new. I think you look for a comfort zone, something that will feel like home. You’re going to walk into an AAFES and say ‘This is comfortable.’”

Smart said there are other advantages to shopping at the Exchange, including no sales tax on purchases and brands that may not be available at other local retail outlets. Active duty military, their dependents and retirees are eligible to shop at the Exchange.

“It’s a higher-end,” he said. “They’re going to find what they’re looking for.”

Victoria Snyder of Vine Grove attended the ceremony to show her support of the staff and their hard work.

“It’s a fantastic job,” she said. “I know how hard they worked.”

Gina Clear can be reached at 270-505-1746 or gclear@thenewsenterprise.com.