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Looking up: New commissary sees foot-traffic increase

Cashiers work to move customers through the lines at the Fort Rucker commissary during a normal shopping day Jan. 12. (Photo by Nathan Pfau)

Cashiers work to move customers through the lines at the Fort Rucker commissary during a normal shopping day Jan. 12. (Photo by Nathan Pfau)

Published: January 19, 2016

FORT RUCKER, Ala. (Jan. 19, 2016) -- Since opening its doors in July, Fort Rucker’s new commissary has served hundreds of thousands of customers, and the pace isn’t showing any signs of slowing down.

In the last three months, the new commissary has seen more than 241,000 customers come through its doors to take advantage of the savings offered throughout the store, according to Jess Lira, acting Fort Rucker Commissary officer.

On an average day, the new facility can see upwards of 2,000 patrons, with spikes much higher for days preceding holidays or special events, said the commissary officer.

“People have just really been enjoying the new store,” he said. “The wider aisles allow people to easily maneuver around one another, allowing them to get in here and get what they need to get and go.”

Lira also said that the efficiency of the cashiers can’t be beat when it comes to a busy shopping day.

“Some of the longest lines I’ve seen in here at the cashier lines have been up to 50-feet long, and within seven minutes the line will have already run through,” he said. “I’m amazed at the way our cashiers get our customers through, and they treat everybody with so much respect and kindness.”

With the increase in foot traffic, sales have also been up in many departments throughout the store, including a 12-percent increase in produce, according to Lira.

“Also, our sushi-to-go and rotisserie chicken sales have been phenomenal,” he said. “It’s popular with the Soldiers because it’s a quick lunch and people really seem to enjoy it.”

Although the new store has seen an increase in patronage, the opening of the new facility hasn’t been without its hiccups, the biggest being a power outage that hit the store late last year, forcing it to close for a few days, Lira said.

Aside from the power outage, any issues and challenges have been minor, he added.

“One of the biggest challenges is getting products off the trucks, into the warehouse and getting them stocked onto the shelves as quick as possible,” he said. “With a smaller warehouse space, products can’t be stored like they were in the old facility.”

With the new store, people are still able to save over shopping at other stores off post. People only have to pay a 5-percent surcharge, which helps to pay for the facilities such as the new store, as opposed to a 9-percent sales tax off post, said the commissary officer.

The new commissary also came with a host of new equipment to maintain, which has presented challenges of their own, as well, he said, but despite having a wrench thrown into an otherwise well-oiled machine every now and then, operations have gone smoothly, Lira said.

The new facility boasts a more modern look, an extra 18,000 square feet of sales floor space, state-of-the-art, energy-efficient amenities and a larger selection of products – more than 12,000 more – to enhance people’s shopping experience.

The commissary also features a full-service deli and bakery department, as well as an extensive selection of produce, meat, frozen and chilled grocery departments.

In addition to saving people money, the facility is energy efficient as well, complete with low-maintenance, polished concrete flooring; high-efficiency heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems; enhanced freezer and cooler insulation; non-ozone-depleting refrigerants; water-saving plumbing fixtures; automatic exterior lighting controls; energy-efficient interior lighting fixtures; Energy Star-rated equipment; energy-conserving night curtains on open display cases; refrigeration monitoring and control system; and adhesives, sealants, paints and coatings made with compliant, low-volatile organic compounds.

With the facility in full swing, Lira said he looks forward to providing a better shopping experience for patrons for years to come.

“I always tell people that shopping here, the experience here is so much nicer,” he said. “Many of the people who work in this store are affiliated with the military or retired military, so they can relate to the customers and they make them feel welcome. It’s just something I really appreciate with my employees.”

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