PORT HUENEME : Construction Begins on Navy Exchange, Commissary Mall

Local military families will soon be able to patronize a full-service deli and bakery, a fine jewelry store and a food court with five dining options--all on the military base in Port Hueneme.

In Wednesday afternoon’s warm sunshine, four shovels decorated with red, white and blue ribbons were plunged into the earth in a ground-breaking ceremony for the Naval Construction Battalion Center’s new $17.8-million commissary and Navy exchange.

“It’s not that often that we in the blue suits . . . have the opportunity to get together and build something new in this age of downsizing,” said Rear Adm. J.T. Kavanaugh, commander of the Navy Exchange Service.

The one-story, 133,000-square-foot building on the corner of 23rd Avenue and Dodson Street on the base will be built by Hensel/Phelps Construction of Irvine in a Southwestern style: cream-colored, with a red roof and palm trees in front. It is scheduled to open in February, 1997.


“We have a commissary and an exchange on the base, but they are really undersized,” said Capt. James L. Delker, commanding officer of the base. “The people who run them are outstanding . . . so people don’t come out unhappy and complaining. Instead they ask, ‘How does Bob Bills [the commissary store officer] get so much in that little bitty building?’ ”

Construction of the commissary, which will more than double the size of the current grocery facility, is funded through a 5% surcharge on purchases.

Construction of the Navy exchange, a cross between a department store and a shopping center, will be paid for by profits from facilities around the world. The current exchange is housed in six buildings across the base, some of which will be demolished and others converted to new uses.

Both facilities serve large local military communities, including service members stationed at the Naval Air Weapons Station in Point Mugu as well as the NCBC, members of the reserves and the retired military population.

Lt. Cmdr. Joseph Schmitz, Naval Exchange officer for the Point Mugu and Port Hueneme bases, said the new building will be especially welcome in light of recent base closures.

“In this region, there are fewer and fewer places for military personnel to go,” he said.