Yongsan commissary tests early bird hours
YONGSAN GARRISON, Republic of Korea - Yongsan Commissary Cashier Maryann Sanders checks out customer Kristel Sloan during new early-bird shopping hours. Commissary officials extended early-bird shopping hours through the end of August as part a three-month test phase. The hours are 7-10 a.m. Tuesday through Friday only for "express" shopping of 15 items or less.

<b>YONGSAN GARRISON, Republic of Korea </b> - Yongsan Commissary officials extended early-bird shopping hours through the end of August as part a three-month test phase.

The commissary has one register open from 7-10 a.m. Tuesday through Friday only for shoppers purchasing 15 items or less.

The program started June 1 on a 30-day trial, but Store Director Michael Mertz said it wasn't enough time to accurately gauge usage.

"We're averaging about 45 customers, so that's a positive thing for the community," Mertz said "For me, that's 45 people who are happy customers."

Mertz said he's received nothing but positive feedback.

"This is certainly a good thing for me and saves me valuable time," said shopper Tracy Destazio. "I can take the kids to school and drop them off at 8, swing by here and get the few things we need for the day."

She said she hopes it will become permanent. "I appreciate it very much and we're taking advantage of it as much as we possibly can. I hope they keep it all next year when school is back in session."

That is what Mertz is waiting for, too. He expects an increase in usage after school starts. "Our customer stats only show summer month usage," Mertz said. "I really think that once school starts, that average will increase with a lot of parents stopping by after dropping their children off at school."

He said Yongsan and Defense Commissary Service officials will look at the usage after August and determine whether the early hours can stay permanent.

Many commissaries in the United States have early shopping hours, but most of those that do have a larger customer base than Yongsan, Mertz said. "I'm hoping we can sustain it, but we need people to use it."

<i>(AFN's Staff Sgt. Joy Meek contributed to this report.)</i>

Page last updated Wed July 16th, 2008 at 20:45