FORT RUCKER, Ala. (July 24, 2014) -- The walls and roof have gone up and the foundation has been poured, but it will still be a bit of a wait before the new commissary on Ruf Avenue will open for customers.

Col. Stuart J. McRae, Fort Rucker garrison commander, and Command Sgt. Maj. William D. Lohmeyer, Fort Rucker garrison command sergeant major, toured the commissary construction site and spoke with foremen, Directorate of Public Works representatives and commissary managers about the progress that has been made so far. The facility is expected to open to customers in June.

"We have about 36,000 square feet of shopping area right now in the old commissary, and the new one will have around 65,000 square feet of shopping area," Bobby Ward, store director, told the garrison command team. "We are going to have a lot more variety of items to sell because of the size of the store. Our aisles will be longer and wider."

Right now the commissary holds around 17,000 line items -- frozen, chilled and dry. In the new store, that will more than double to about 35,000 items.

"We will be offering new items, such as rotisserie chicken and ready-dinner meal sides that are fresh, such as macaroni and cheese and salads," said Ward. "We will be expanding our produce line, deli and bakery, as well. Our hope is when we go into local grocery stores, we don't see any uniforms in there."

The new commissary layout will be reversed compared to the current layout. There will also be a secure area where case lot sales will be held as well as tables set up for customers to eat their lunch for convenience.

Aisles will also be large -- enough for three or four carts, said Jess Lira, assistant commissary officer.

Parking will be more convenient, as well, added Lira, since customers will not have to share it with other stores, as they do now.

The new commissary is also a leading initiative when it comes to building green.

"We have maximized the natural light with 92 skylights to cut down on power requirements. They will also keep the building cooler during the day because extra lights will not be burning," said Anthony Corman, Carothers Construction, Inc., chief quality control officer. "We have other requirements for sustainability that monitors the drywall, the lumber, other materials and indoor air quality.

"Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design has organizations account for sustainability," he continued. "It encourages the use of recycled materials and helps prevent a new construction from hurting the environment in anyway."

LEED is a green-building-certification program that recognizes best-in-class building strategies and practices. It is intended to help building owners and operators be environmentally responsible and use resources efficiently, added Corman.

The current commissary was built in the 1960s and at the time there was need for large warehouses, but this is not the case anymore, said McRae.

"Trucks with product come more often, which is cheaper to operate, instead of us having to store it all," he said. "And it was not feasible to remodel our current commissary and reclaim space for a new purpose to what our customers' needs are."

McRae and Lohmeyer also toured the current commissary to see how current business is fairing, and asked questions about what would be moved to the new location and what would be sold or shipped off.

Almost everything in the new commissary will be brand new -- everything from coolers, racks and shelves to check-out aisles -- Ward said.

After hearing all that the contractors, managers and DPW had to say on the progress, McRae was happy with what he saw.

"This is great. I am really excited about the nearly doubling of sales floor space. That creates all sorts of options for our Families," he said. "We are going to have some very happy customers. It's going to be a great addition to enhance the quality of life at Fort Rucker."