Presidio of Monterey, Calif. -- Can you imagine a seven-million-dollar facelift'

The Defense Commissary Agency has spent that amount renovating the Ord Military Community Commissary over the past 24 months.

Changes were coming to the store even before the renovation began. There was the renovation of the new central computer system that operates the cash registers. Additionally, self-check-outs and self -bagging options were introduced, and fast checkout for 15 or fewer items became available.

The extensive renovation that has transformed the store then got underway. And, notably, it was accomplished without closing the facility.

Probably the first step toward renovation that patrons noticed was the total replacement of the storeAca,!a,,cs interior lighting. The new system is energy-efficient and much brighter than the old lighting. Some patrons probably noticed the activity that began in April 2007 when fixtures and ceiling tiles were removed to make way for a new roof.

Next, a kiosk that was in the way of shopping carts in front of the commissary was removed. This allowed for unobstructed sidewalks and unobstructed entrance to the commissary.

Soon those with offices in the storeAca,!a,,cs administrative area began wearing hard hats at work because the next phase of the renovation was to install new heating, ventilation and air conditioning ductwork and ceiling in this area. The staff decided on pink hats for the gals and silver hats for the guys.

In March 2008 the first phase of the floor replacement of the 42,000-square-foot store began with the closing of a large part of the produce department. Produce was the first department to have display cases removed and the last to have them re-installed and was the department that was most affected by the renovation process.

Many patrons remember the checkout area when ceiling and floor tiles were removed. Some probably thought the operation looked more like the aftermath of a disaster and less like a renovation.

This was when patrons began to ask, Aca,!A"Why are you openAca,!A?'

Our response was, Aca,!A"WeAca,!a,,cre here to support the mission, regardless.Aca,!A?

Patrons continued to shop at the store, even though every visit was a new experience.

Installation of new freeze-and-chill display cases began in August 2008. Each case was fitted with a plastic enclosure to protect its contents from dust raised by the cutting of cement and steel drainage piping that was going on all around.

In another part of the store the new bakery opened for business. The delicatessen, soon to be located next to it, was still a few months off. But for the first time in several weeks fresh-baked goods were again available.

Now it was time for the new HVAC system to be placed. The unit was the size of a 40-foot van and weighed just over 14,000 pounds. For support it required steel columns 16 inches in diameter set in six feet of concrete. The crane to lift the unit to the top of the building took two days to arrive because locally there was none large enough to lift it.

On the day the unit was placed, the back half of the store was closed as a safety precaution in case the unit broke free of the cables and fell. Fortunately there were no problems.

Then came the cutting of a cement wall to create a new entrance to the commissary. Patrons watched as a 10-by-12-foot section of wall fell to the ground. Cheers and applause were heard as commissary history was made.

In September 2008 the deli department was moved from its previous location at the back of the store to near the bakery area. Overnight the Ord Commissary became the location of a world class deli-bakery. Rotisserie chicken became available at the store for the first time.

Then was the removal of about 45 percent of the frozen display cases. The cases had to be removed to be replaced.

For several weeks only a limited quantity of fast-selling frozen items was available. However, patrons joked that because the HVAC system was not yet functioning, the temperature inside the store was sufficient to keep anything frozen. Also, the cashiers wore freezer-worker clothing and staff was nearly at the point of issuing cold-weather gear to patrons. This went on for nearly two months. While temporary heat was pumped into the store through large flexible tubes, it was never enough.

Renovation work was kept to a minimum during the year-end holidays in 2008 because November and December are busiest months for commissary sales. Even so, the front entrance was completed during this time, as was two thirds of the produce department.

Also at this time the meat department was shut down and all meat items were relocated to one of the new freeze display units. This caused quite a stir with many patrons who thought there was no meat for sale.

A new five-deck meat display case was opened in late November with nearly four times the capacity of its predecessor. Staff was able to stock new products such as bison and lamb. They also added a select wholesale section and are still expanding the selection of ready-cut pre-pack items.

By early 2009 the commissaryAca,!a,,cs HVAC system was supplying heat. For the first time in several weeks patrons and employees could breathe without seeing their vaporized breath. Patrons were spending more time exploring their new commissary. Many were inspecting items the store had never carried before.

The following three months were spent moving entire aisles. Thirteen aisles, each 72 feet in length, had to be moved to place tile underneath.

Each aisle was jacked up to clear the floor, wheels were attached at four-foot intervals and a dozen or more workers pushed and pulled. Several aisles were moved from one side of the store to the other. Most of this work was done after closing hours, but occasionally patrons were treated to a free show when the aisles were moved during business hours.

With the renovation coming to an end, an array of outstanding products and services were becoming available to patrons. Besides the meat departmentAca,!a,,cs five-deck display cases stocked with all those meat cuts seen in cooking shows on TV, the produce departmentAca,!a,,cs vegetables and fruits were regularly freshened by a rain of fine mist that is accompanied by simulated lightning and thunder. Patrons visited the new sushi bar.

Some were drawn to the new line of organic products. Some enthused over the selected rotisserie chicken or ribs or other ready-to-eat items. And, many ordered specialty items from the bakery department, which now offered customized cakes decorated with messages, images or logos.

May 2009 marked the end of the renovation. A ribbon-cutting ceremony marking the grand re-opening was held June 18. Presidio Garrison Commander Col. Darcy A. Brewer served as the main speaker. The Ord Military Community Commissary had become a world-class supermarket in just 18 months.