RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany - Shoppers at Europe's largest commissary here are starting to see the effects of a $49 million renovation project to expand the existing facility from about 81,100 to more than 106,000 square feet.

The project, being overseen by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Europe District, looks to upgrade the chilled and frozen foods displays, add a new deli, bakery, more electronic checkout registers, and improve the produce department.

After renovations, the building will house new energy-saving lighting, air conditioning, wider aisles and new shelving. Outside the commissary, new sidewalks, landscaping including replacement of trees, and parking totally 453 spaces will complete the transformation.

According to Leslie Brown, a spokesperson with the Defense Commissary Agency, the renovations are needed to meet the growing needs of the community.

Brown says the commissary was originally designed to handle approximately $13 million in sales a year. In 2010, transactions totaled more than $60 million.

"Except for the refrigeration systems there have not been any major renovations since the store opened in 1983." said Brown. "This is an extensive project, with many phases but the commissary needed these renovations to better serve the military community here."
A project of this size will not be completed without some growing pains.

According to Lt. Col. Rick Rieger, a program manager with the district, renovations will take place in four main phases with some sub-phases.

Soon, construction of the east parking and north building extension will begin. As the project progresses, the commissary will look more like a typical construction site with heavy equipment and workers, said Rieger.

When the project is complete in about 23 months, the more than 25,000 additional square feet will yield more than 17,000 square feet of new sales area.
But the increase in sales area will come with some temporary challenges including a decrease in customer parking.

Prior to the start of the renovations there were 361 spaces. During the project the number will decrease to 243, said Brown.

"To free up more spaces, the employee parking has been relocated to the former base exchange," said Brown. "We have also added signage to direct customers to the additional parking area."

While Brown says the store will remain open and item selection should not change, the layout will.

"The biggest issues customers are expected to face during the renovations will be that some items might be a little harder to locate in the store as we rearrange shelving," said Brown. "But customers can always ask a store associate for assistance in locating their favorite products."
Senior Master Sgt. Garfield Harris, with the 86th Security Forces Squadron, here, a frequent shopper in the commissary, has some concerns about the renovations.

"I know the renovations might mean longer checkout lines, less parking and I have to start at the bottom of the learning curve to find things," said Harris. "But in the end, the renovations are good for the community and so the end will justify the means."

About half way through the project, when roofing and ceiling work is underway, a temporary tent-like structure will be put in place to ensure shoppers are safe and can continue to shop. Customers need to remain aware that they are on an active construction site, remember safety is the key, added Rieger.

According to Lawrence Mann, the district logistics supervisor with Department of Defense Dependents School, Kaiserslautern District, to ensure the safety of the students in the vicinity, Ramstein Intermediate School will add 10 drop off spots, additionally the elementary school will add 15 spots.

The school bus loading and unloading zones are not impacted by the commissary construction added Mann. Bus operations will continue as normal.

DeCA and the Corps say that renovations may disrupt shopping at times, but there are things customers can do to help. Sharing rides to the commissary, shopping at non-peak hours and using the commissaries at Vogelweh and Sembach will ease the disruption.

"I don't mind the pain of the renovation," said Harris. "In the end, it's good for the community and the means will justify the pain."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16