The only base stock market near Sacramento, California, closes Saturday, upsetting many area veterans looking for deals ahead of the holiday season.
McClellan Air Force Base closed in 2001, leading to little foot traffic at the base fair in nearby McClellan Park. The store will close on Nov. 26, Army and Air Force Exchange Service spokesman Chris Ward said.
“McClellan AFB has been closed due to realignment and base closure in 2001,” a program used by Congress to close unnecessary facilities, Ward said in a statement to Military.com. The exchange service “maintained a BX at McClellan Park for more than 20 years. The absence of a military mission, combined with a significant drop in customer demand, requires the closure of the BX.”
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Veterans from the Sacramento area now have to travel an hour north to Beale Air Force Base in Yuba County or an hour southwest to Travis Air Force Base in Solano County to shop in person at the nearest exchange stores.
Ward said it is the first closure of an AAFES exchange since 2019, when a store in South Korea’s Yongsan Garrison switched to Camp Humphreys facilities, about 50 miles away by road.
Military exchanges provide low-cost food courts, duty-free shopping, and services such as haircuts for all eligible military and veterans. The McClellan Park Base Exchange opened in the mid-1980s and remained open 20 years longer than the Air Force base to which it was attached.
Veterans from the region have complained extensively to local California media about the closure of the fair.
Army veteran Joe Margolies said retirees often don’t have much flexibility when it comes to shopping, relying on discounts offered by a basic grant.
“I’m a retired military man, so I definitely have a steady income,” Margolies told KRCA 3. “This makes it even more important, especially for people who count pennies and spend coupons.”
As Americans grapple with inflation, some veterans and service members have found relief in shopping at base exchanges. Phillip Roberts, an Air Force veteran who lives in Sacramento, said the closure is a big blow to the military community.
“It hits every veteran in Sacramento in the face,” Roberts told ABC 10. “At the BX, you’re talking about 30% to 60% savings.”
Ward told Military.com that eligible customers in the Sacramento area can continue to shop at www.ShopMyExchange.com.
AAFES expanded its online shopping capabilities during the pandemic, according to its 2020 and 2021 annual reports. While it still accounts for only a fraction of the stores’ total sales — e-commerce rose from 4% of total sales in 2019 to 7% and 8% in 2020 and 2021 — some veterans believe the decrease in foot traffic is inevitable for locations like McClellan.
“No customers, much less,” Bud Haas, a retired Air Force major, told The Sacramento Bee about the base exchange. “I think they should have closed it a long time ago.”
Other long-standing services used by service members have also recently shut down.
Earlier this month, Military.com reported that the Air Force was closing hotels at eight bases across the country as military-run lodging continues to struggle to bring in customers after a 2018 policy stripped the inns of taxpayers’ money.
In October, Military.com reported that United Service Organization, or USO, facilities across the country have suddenly closed their doors after seeing a drop in foot traffic in some locations.
— Thomas Novelly can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @TomNovelly.
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