Plans take shape for new commissary

  • Published
  • By Amanda Creel
  • 78 ABW/PA
Patrons of the Robins commissary could be shopping in a new facility as early as August 2008.

The contract for a new commissary at Robins is expected to be awarded May 1, and construction could begin as early as mid May, said Scott Sisson, an architect and project manager for the Defense Commissary Agency.

"If everything goes according to plan, in mid to late August 2008, patrons will be shopping in the new store. However, a little construction may still be going on when the store first opens," Mr. Sisson said.

The construction project will differ from a standard construction project, in order to keep the existing commissary open for business during the 18-month construction process. Construction crews will spend the first three months doing nothing but site work.

"In standard construction, you build the buildings and then you build the parking lots. It will be a little backwards from the typical construction project," said Larry Allen, community planner, who has helped with the plans of the proposed commissary since November of 2002.

Since the new commissary will be built on the existing facility's parking lot, the first step will be to build a temporary parking area for shoppers.

Once temporary parking is established, construction on the new parking lot will begin, and once the new parking lot is completed, construction of the commissary facility can begin, Mr. Sisson said.

Although this may mean greater walking distances during the construction period, commissary patrons will find it was worth the wait when the new facility opens.

According to Mr. Allen, the new commissary will be on the same level as its parking lot. This means the travel distance to the first parking space will be shorter at the new facility without breaking force-protection standards, and with no ramps to travel, it will mean easier trips from the check-out lanes to the parking lot.

Once the new commissary opens, there will be other advantages to the location of the parking lot. For example, the new parking area will allow shoppers to cross directly from the commissary to the Base Exchange, said Mr. Allen. Plus, the new facility boasts a larger retail space by about 30 percent compared to the existing commissary.

"Instead of having large warehouse areas, there will be more products on the floor," Mr. Allen said.

Enthusiasm for the new commissary project is unbridled. Brenda Wilson, an Air Force spouse, said she has been looking forward to more news about the addition of the new commissary since she first heard about it more than a year ago.

"I think that it will be awesome and I am ready for it," Mrs. Wilson said. She said she hopes her husband's Air Force career and a possible permanent change of station doesn't hinder her from seeing it open its doors.

Although commissary patrons like Mrs. Wilson are looking forward to a new and larger facility, many will miss the charm of shopping at the current Robins commissary.

Friendships can be formed as customers maneuver up and down the aisles without going against the traffic arrows. The traffic arrows fixed on the floors of the aisles are a commandment few break without the urge to apologize repeatedly to their fellow shoppers.

The charm doesn't end with the policing of traffic flow; shoppers can be found trading coupons or leaving soon-to-expire coupons for the shoppers who pass behind them. The kindred spirit of the commissary patron can also be seen as others help one another reach the top shelf or the bottom shelf all the way in the back where a much needed item seems to tease the shopper.

However, despite the charm of the current commissary, few complaints can be found as the new commissary forecasts are finally shaping up to be a reality. The promise of wider aisles, larger retail space and a newer facility can put a smile on any commissary patron's face.

"I like the idea of no arrows, especially if people are still courteous," said Tech. Sgt. Angel Waymer with the 116th Operation Support Squadron. "I know they (the arrows) are for convenience, but if you're trying to run in and out it makes it more complicated."

Rodney Shipp, a retired Airman, and his wife, Valang, said they are looking forward to a bigger shopping area and wider aisles. They said they hope the changes result in more selection throughout the store especially in the produce area.