Popeyes Chicken is coming to Fort Lee.
So is Green Bean Coffee, Brigade Quartermaster military clothing and accessories, as well as an extensive renovation to the main exchange.
Popeyes, a New Orleans-based chain of fast food chicken restaurants, will be part of a new multi-million dollar Army and Air Force Exchange Service car care center that will replace the existing service facility on Sisisky Boulevard.
Jason Rosenberg, Fort Lee’s AAFES general manager, said the car care center will be open 24 hours, include six service bays, a shoppette and a coffee shop.
Approval and funding for the facility was completed some time ago, said Rosenberg, but the project was delayed due to a redesign. That redesign removed a dry cleaners, added the Popeye’s, coffee shop and two bays to the original four.
Rosenberg said it takes roughly 12 months to open such a facility, but he couldn’t determine when the construction would begin or when the project would be completed.
“Right now I’m hoping we’ll see it next summer,” he said.
The AAFES-franchised Popeyes and the car care center, said Rosenberg, will have an immediate impact on the community.
“I think it will do extremely well,” said Rosenberg, noting that Popeyes is one of AAFES most popular food outlets. “The location is perfect, because it is near the (Sisisky) gate, it’ll have a drive through and there will be seating inside as well for people to dine in.”
The Popeyes addition to the post’s list of eating establishments comes at a time when its population will nearly double by 2011 due to Base Realignment and Closure mandates.
“2009 will be the biggest surge in population, and we want to be ready for that,” said Rosenberg. “If you go into our Burger King during lunch time there are hardly any empty seats. Our food court (at the main exchange) is the same way, so Popeyes will bring some needed relief.”
Rosenberg said that the current car care center will continue to sell gas even as the new facility is being built.
“We don’t want to lose any kind of service to the community while this is going on,” he said. “We’re the only gas station on Fort Lee. We’re very, very busy and people rely on us….We want to keep our current gas station fully operational up until the day the new gas station opens.”
In the PXtra, a multi-service mini-mall located on Mahone Avenue, AAFES has plans to bring in a Green Bean coffee shop and a Brigade QM.
Green Bean will fill the void of at least one coffee vendor that operated in the mini-mall but is no longer there.
“They are a proven company with AAFES,” said Rosenberg.
Green Bean coffee shops started with AAFES during deployments to the Gulf region; one of the few private vendors to set up shop in the Middle East.
“They’ve been hugely successful,” said Rosenberg. “They have a real customer base. Anybody that is a coffee drinker and who has been deployed, knows Green Bean coffee and swears that it is a great product.”
Rosenberg said Green Bean is scheduled to open in about six weeks.
Brigade QM will take over the space formally called the Little Café. The facility is currently under renovation and will take about two weeks to complete. When it opens its doors, it will offer military members an assortment of approved field gear and other items that are already sold under the same brand name in the military clothing and sales stores.
“They’ve opened one at Fort Campbell, Fort Hood, Fort Bragg and Fort Benning, and they’ve been hugely successful,” said Rosenberg.
Rosenberg said Fort Lee’s more than 4,000 military trainees should find Brigade QM a viable complement to the MCSS.
“They’ll find lots of cool items that will make them more effective and make their jobs easier,” he said.
At the main exchange, renovation has already begun on a project that may last about a year.
“We’re doing a full image upgrade,” said Rosenberg. “We feel that the store is a little outdated and needed an update in terms of the fixtures and the overall look of the facility.”
The image upgrade will entail carpet removal and replacement, new tile and a change in the traffic flow using straight aisles instead of angled ones. Additionally, the electronics section, called the “Power Zone” will be expanded and enhanced.
“It will be very interactive where customers can try new video games,” said Rosenberg. “It will have a very modern and state-of-the-art feel to it.”
In addition to the upgrade, Fort Lee customers will begin to see larger advertising supplements by the first week in April.
“That will give people more of a variety of sales merchandise each week,” said Rosenberg. “We may have had one or two televisions on sale before, now we’ll have four or five.”