A new kind of Navy Exchange - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

A new kind of Navy Exchange

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BETHESDA, Md. -

A gigantic line of people assembled outside a new store in Bethesda, Saturday morning. And, when the ribbon was cut, the shoppers streamed in to the newest Naval Exchange Store in the world.

Many military posts offer retail stores, but the one now open on the campus of the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center is different.

"[Previously] there was a store here," explained Capt. Fritz Kass, the commanding officer of Naval Support Activity on the base. "It was about 40,000 square feet. This one's 150,000 square feet. So, the entire previous store fits in our back-room storage."

The new Navy Exchange is designed differently, with many extra-wide aisles to more easily accommodate wounded warriors. This on-post store features a food court, and, on its opening day, Subway spokesman Jared took a turn behind the counter. It was clear from his speed, Jared has made submarine sandwiches before.

Among the other celebrities on hand for opening day: fitness guru Denise Austin, and cable-tv chef Robert Irvine, who interrupted his book-signing for a moment to remember this weekend marks a 237th birthday. "Happy birthday Marine Corps," Irvine shouted at our camera. Then he added: "Go, Navy!"

The huge Navy Exchange is very "green" in its design. In fact, the roof is covered with soil on which newly-planted grass seed is sprouting. The "lawn on the roof" will provide better insulation, and it will reduce runoff from rain and snow.

Back inside, military families will be able to buy everything from the basics (such as detergent), to wine, beer, and spirits, to wide-screen televisions -- all tax free.

In part, because of the surrounding affluent area (where a lot of military retirees live and work in their second careers), this Naval Exchange has a rather high proportion of designer clothing, including Ralph Lauren.

In fact, the whole store has a rather upscale look. "It reminds me of like a Macy's or something like that," observed retired Army Lt. Col. Michael Sawyers who was purchasing a quilt and jewelry for his wife

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