By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterJuly 21, 2016
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Just over a year ago, Fort Rucker opened the doors to a new commissary to provide shoppers with a top-notch shopping experience and, after 365 days, sales and customer satisfaction is still as high as ever.
The Fort Rucker Commissary celebrated its one-year anniversary July 15, and although the opening had its hiccups, the issues have since been smoothed out and the facility was able to celebrate its first birthday with increased sales, according to Sharon Allen Thurston, store director.
"The commissary has been really well received," she said. "I've done a couple of retiree council meetings, and attended the Army and Air Force Exchange Defense Commissary Agency quarterly meetings, and most of the patrons that come to these meetings are very positive about the commissary."
In addition to rave reviews, the commissary is up 4 percent in sales compared to this time last year, which Thurston said is quite a feat.
"That is really amazing because across our zone, we are leading the central zone in positive sales," she said.
Thurston, who joined the Fort Rucker Commissary team in April, said a lot of that success is because of customer service, and the focus the staff puts on listening to customer feedback and requests.
"When people come here, we are here for you -- the customer," she said. "We pride ourselves on great service. When you walk into our doors, our people are pleasant and friendly, and they're here to help you.
"The commissary is a place where the customers own the store," continued the store director. "I get a stack of requests each week. Customers are always asking if we can bring in a certain product, and that's what we do. When customers suggest items, we contact our category buyers at headquarters and they do what they can to bring the products into the commissary because it is our customers' store."
It's that level of service that can create a great shopping experience for patrons on post, like Daisy Turner, military spouse, who said she chooses to shop at the commissary because of the convenience and prices, which she said can't be beat.
"I really love coming here," said Turner. "I honestly don't know why anyone who can shop here would choose to shop at any other store. You can get everything you need right here on post and it's basically supporting your own community. Why would you shop somewhere else for your groceries?
"I absolutely love the staff, too," she said. "They're always so helpful and friendly. It just makes it a pleasure when I have to do my grocery shopping."
Thurston, who has worked in five different commissaries in multiple countries, said that cost savings is the main benefit for people who shop at the commissary.
"When people shop at the commissary, our pricing model is cost-plus," said the store director. "What that means is we buy that product at cost and the plus is the 5-percent surcharge, which Congress has legislated that we collect for upkeep and building of new commissaries."
In addition to the savings of cost-plus, every two weeks new items go on sale throughout the store, so people are encouraged to come back and see which items they can get at further discounts.
The commissary shares the same layout and construction with all new facilities across all installations because they're all built to a specific design, said Thurston, but Fort Rucker's location does have some unique aspects, such as a closed-in organic food section and some of the chilled items, which aren't typical in commissaries.
In addition to a bit of uniqueness, the commissary gets involved in community projects, such as Feds Feeds Families, the Fisher House Foundation Scholarships for military children, the Health Lifestyle Festival and biannual case lot sales, and it's all for the customers, said Thurston.
"I've had nothing but the greatest experience with the greatest staff and customers here," she said. "I love what I do and I'm here to serve them."