AAFES recruiting vendors

Cannon Connections photo: Argen Duncan Clovis artist Ruben Armenta paints in his studio at the Cannon Air Force Base Exchange. He is contracting with Army Air Force Exchange Services to offer his work on base.

By Argen Duncan: Cannon Connections

The Army Air Force Exchange Service is on a constant quest to expand shopping opportunities at Cannon Air Force Base, while increasing other quality of life factors.

AAFES is trying to attract vendors from off base, from big corporations to people selling homemade crafts, said service business manager Jessica Hall. The vendors pay Cannon a percentage of their sales, and the money goes to the Morale, Welfare and Recreation Fund for things like parks and the gym.

Hall is always looking for merchants.

“We just kind of want anything that catches people’s eyes,” she said, adding that she particularly wants unusual products.

Those outside merchants must sell at prices 20 percent less than what they would use off base. Also, vendors are required to provide the merchandise immediately rather than taking orders, and they have to offer name brands.

Currently, Hall said a woman sells jewelry most weekends, and local artist Ruben Armenta offers fine art and graphic design from a studio inside the Base Exchange. A wood carver is scheduled to sell his wares June 9.

“Right now, it’s kind of hard to get people out here just because they know the base is in a transition,” Hall said.

If someone has a specific request for a type of vendor, Hall said, she would try to find someone.

“There’s millions of people that travel from base to base and do that kind of thing,” she said.

Armenta, a retired airman who does a variety of pieces including custom designs and prints of his original art, said he has had his on-base studio for about a month on a trial basis. He said business has been steady, and customers have made positive comments.

After a career in graphic arts for the Air Force, Armenta has been doing freelance artwork since 2001.

“And what this location has permited me is the ability to provide graphic-type artistic support for the 27th Special Operations Wing at a very economical price,” he said.

The artist has created squadron prints, murals and other pieces for Cannon.

Interested vendors sign one-year contracts and operate when they choose, not necessarily every day.

“They make a lot of money themselves just coming out here,” Hall said.

Merchants don’t have to pay rent or utility bills, and the percentage of sales they pay is negotiable and is different for different people.

On a long-term basis, the base already operates a Hertz rental car service, restaurants, an arcade, a barber and beauty shop, a gift shop and a general store.