Command Sergeant Major Mason Bryant, General Manager Cindy Brown, Col. Eric Berdy, retired Express associate Tony Tognoni, and Store Manager Sema Trost open the new Express at the Army garrison in Italy.

Vicenza Associates Bring Modern Convenience to Soldiers

Command Sergeant Major Mason Bryant, General Manager Cindy Brown, Col. Eric Berdy, retired Express associate Tony Tognoni, and Store Manager Sema Trost open the new Express at the Army garrison in Italy.

 

The 24 associates at the Vicenza Express spent more than 18 months working in a temporary facility while the store underwent a major renovation, but it was well worth it to see the finished product.

The Express was built in the 1950s and is one of the oldest Exchange stores in Europe.

The $1.9-million upgrade brought the store—from the floor coverings to the ceiling tiles—into the 21st century, including making the building much more energy efficient. The remodel included new fixtures, freezers and coolers, lighting, signage, break room for associates, larger Snack Avenue and a Hunt Brothers Pizza.

The store also features expanded BE FIT options, including a sports nutrition section and better-for-you snack choices like fresh fruit, salads, wraps, hummus and more. As Vicenza is the only designated Healthy Army Community in Europe, the Express has a special focus on healthy choices.

The Vicenza Express also has the first queue line in Europe, which allows for faster checkout and greater convenience for shoppers.

‘Just like being at home’

But the best part of the 10,914-square-foot new-and-improved store?

“The reaction I get from customers seeing the new facility,” said Store Manager Sema Trost. “The comment I hear the most is, ‘It’s just like being at home.’”

The former Express at Vicenza.

The success of the project resulted from collaboration of many Exchange associates and leaders, Vicenza command and the USAG Italy Directorate of Public Works.

It wasn’t just Vicenza associates who pitched in: Paul Rincon, the Ramstein AB Express manager, traveled to Vicenza from Germany to help set up the Hunt Brothers Pizza program at the Express. The quick-serve restaurant did more than $7,000 in sales in the first three days.

‘This is just the beginning’

The Express saw sales increases of 33 percent, 74 percent and 146 percent in its first three days, respectively. Twenty-eight associates received “Thank You” awards, and 12 received a coin from Exchange Europe/Southwest Asia Senior Vice President Jason Rosenberg in recognition of their hard work on making the re-opening a success.

“This is just the beginning,” Rosenberg said, highlighting the planned $10-million Vicenza shopping center project that will begin this year.

Even retired associates returned to celebrate. Tony Tognoni, who retired after working 46 years at the Vicenza Express, cut the cake. Associate Anna Messing retired the day after the re-opening with 28 years of service.

Focused on community needs

USAG Italy Commander Col. Erik Berdy and Command Sgt. Maj. Mason Bryant helped cut the ribbon on the new facility and thanked the Exchange.

“The Exchange is very focused on the needs of the community,” Berdy said, while also noting the $450,000 the Vicenza Exchange contributed to Quality-of-Life programs and more in 2017.

There’s little doubt that the shoppers are enjoying the new store. As Rosenberg toured the facility, he heard two Soldiers in front of him joking around as they admired the Express.

“I’m re-enlisting today,” said one to the other.


Read and see more!

In the Exchange History Flickr Album, read about and see pictures of how exchanges served American GIs in Italy during World War II and soon thereafter. At left, the post exchange at Caserta, Italy, 1944.

 

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3 Comments

  1. Stephanie Ferretti on March 14, 2019 at 5:16 pm

    Beautiful! I was stationed in Vicenza. The associates at the facility were always so knowledgeable and helpful. This new facility will truly enable them to shine even more! The community will love it!

  2. Tony Marino on September 23, 2019 at 7:33 pm

    I started my AAFES career in Vicenza as a sales associate and after several moves returned and retired from AAFES as the HRM. I saw many iterations of the Exchange structures from 1972 onward thru to the last one in 1996. I left Vicenza in 2012, retiring from the Army Civilian Personnel Division, but my heart was always with AAFES-Italy Exchange. I made and left many friends there and fondly remember both good and some not-so-good times. Nice to see the upgrade coming, for customers and employees alike.

    • Steve Smith on September 23, 2019 at 7:54 pm

      Mr. Marino:

      Thank you for writing to your Exchange Post! I truly appreciate your comments.

      Let’s keep the conversation going! Anybody else out there want to comment on Vicenza and its renovation?

      If so, type your thoughts in the comment box and hit enter.

      Oh, c’mon . . . we want to read them!

      Steve Smith
      Editor, The Exchange Post

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