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AAFES pumps big bucks into Patrick, Cape

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- There are some big spenders at Patrick AFB and Cape Cananveral AFS and their spending habits helped the Army/Air Force Exchange Service pump nearly $5 million into recent quality of life enhancements at both installations.

Locally, AAFES is upgrading facilities, to include the food courts at both Patrick and Cape Canaveral and eliminating one service that has been cost-ineffective for the last five years, according to Teo Smith, AAFES general ganger.

"But the bottom line will never change," Smith said. "Every single thing we do is designed to serve the best customers in the world."

Smith said AAFES has invested millions on the already completed and remaining proposed upgrades that should all be completed within a few months.

"We (AAFES) never sit still ...we don't take the attitude that something is 'good enough' when we know we can do things better," Smith said.

He said that philosophy was the driving factor in their decision to replace the current gas pumps at the main shoppette near Patrick's South Gate.

"Sometime in the not-too-distant future, we'll be replacing all 20 gas pumps at the shoppette," he said, adding that gas-buying opportunities would be unavailable for about one week while the upgrades are completed.

"But we want our customers to know there is nothing wrong with the gas pumps as they are now ...because of the weather and salt air, the outside of them are corroding and they just don't keep up with either the AAFES or base image standards," Smith said.
He said the new pumps are expected to be operational no later than April 30.

In addition, the Cape Shoppette will be undergoing a major face-lift. All the work will be done during operating hours and will take about two weeks in June.

"It'll be worth it ... we'll make sure of it," Smith said.

For the food connoiseurs, Charley's Grilled Subs will soon be opening at the Patrick Food Mall, and Kilwin's, which is scheduled to open this week, will provide a unique assortment of products - chocolates, ice cream and fudge.

A few miles north, patrons at the Cape Canaveral Food Court can now enjoy breakfast and lunch at Dunkin' Donuts. Chick-Fil-A is also open on a 90-day trial basis.

"Chick-Fil-A is basically in a 'use-it-lose-it" evaluation period right now," Smith said. "We hope our folks use it and they stay with us."

The Car Care Center, located just south of the Bowling Center, was closed. All of the automotive retail merchandise - to include wheels and rims - is now sold at the Main Shoppette.

"Why did we close it? Simple. The Car Care Center was operating at a loss for almost five years. In order to fulfill our mission, AAFES must provide quality goods and services at competitively low prices and generate earning to support morale, welfare and recreation programs. Continued operation of facilities that operate at a loss can negatively impact the annual dividend AAFES provides the Patrick community," Smith said.

He also said that with the added visibility of a high-traffic area like the shoppette, auto product sales have increased since the move.

Roughly two-thirds of AAFES earnings are paid to MWR programs. In the past 10 years, more than $2.4 billion has been contributed by AAFES to military programs.

And they have a lot of customers - and commanders - around here who are grateful for what they do.

"AAFES is a most-valued partner, not just here in the 45th Space Wing, but throughout the military on a world-wide basis," said Col. Mark Bontrager, commander, 45th Mission Support Group.

"Through their generous contributions to our morale, welfare and recreation fund, we are able to provide our community with top-notch, affordable and diverse activities for all of us to take advantage of and enjoy," he said.