GRAFENWOEHR, Germany - A $38 million shopping complex, which will house a new state-of-the-art commissary and post exchange, opens here Sept. 26.

For grocery shopping, Defense Commissary Agency officials are delivering on customer requests when the large store opens its doors to patrons for the first time.

In addition to sheer space (more than three times the size of the current commissary), shoppers will enjoy:

Extended hours. The store will be open six days a week, Tuesday through Sunday. The store will be open daily 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., except on Sunday, when it will be open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The new facility will also offer special early bird shopping hours each morning, except Monday, from 7-9 a.m.

"These hours are for anybody, in case you want to get some coffee or doughnuts before heading to work, or if you're trying to get out of town early during the weekend and need to grab a sandwich to go," said Grafenwoehr Commissary store director Chudri Najdawi.

Four self-checkout lanes. "We've found that people with fewer items, grab-and-go lunch items for example, really like that," said Randy Eller, Wiesbaden/Bamberg zone manager. "(Self-checkout) is growing in popularity, amounting to 20-40 percent of total register transactions for deployed stores. The self-checkout lanes, combined with the six traditional lines, will bring the store's total to 10.

Deli with self service bakery. Customers can enjoy lunch meals to go at the deli.

Fresh salad bar. Health-conscious customers can enjoy a fresh salad bar, similar to the one at the nearby Vilseck commissary. Najdawi said the commissaries will continue to carry the prepacked salads in addition to the fresh bar.

Increase in product and brand selection. Due to the store's sheer size - the new store measures 27,337 square feet, or 20,971 square feet larger than the current store - the number of products offered will more than double from 5,325 to 11,230. Selection of increasingly popular food choices, such as organic items, will expand to offer many more brands than before.

Electronic scales. Customers will be able to weigh their produce on electronic scales stationed throughout the department. Once you weigh an item, the scale prints out a price sticker, which can then be applied to the item and taken directly to the checkout counter.

Najdawi said self-weighing and pricing of produce and some other items should make checkout quick and easy.

As for the grand-opening, "It's going to be a real gala event," said Eller, adding that a mini Cooper, big screen TV and bikes are just a few of the prizes to be awarded.

Registration for these larger giveaways will begin at the grand opening, with some drawings will be held later in the week. The mini Cooper winner will not be drawn until December, giving as many people as possible a chance to enter.

Additionally, smaller prizes will be given away throughout the day, including DeCA gift certifichecks, baby product baskets, bags, towels, toy trucks, soccer balls and plush toys.

Manufacturers and brokers who provide the commissary with products will be on hand to promote selected items during taste testing and instructional demonstrations.

Najdawi said despite the size increase, the store hopes to maintain a small-store appeal that many customers are accustomed to at the current facility.

"We will maintain the community atmosphere by good customer service, getting involved with customer needs and treating them as part of the family," Najdawi said.

The current Grafenwoehr Commissary - built in 1956 - will close after the new store's opening, and the Vilseck Commissary will continue to serve the Rose Barracks community.

With the new upgrades and changes, the one constant will be the savings, Najdawi said.

Because DeCA facilities sell their products at cost (there is no mark-up), it remains a servicemember's top benefit in the Department of Defense, said Eller.

Also opening its doors to eagerly waiting customers: the largest Army Post Exchange in Europe, which accounts for $29 million of the $38 million Grafenwoehr complex.

The new exchange's 65,000 square feet of sales floor is two and a half times larger than the current sales floor, and the store will stock hundreds of items that it simply did not have the room to stock previously, said the new PX manager Stephanie Burns.

"There are categories of merchandise that other smaller stores just don't have the square footage to carry," said Burns, who has managed Army and Air Force Exchange facilities stateside and in Europe for more than a decade.

She said a great example of the selection increase is the current baby/toddler section at the Vilseck PX. Currently, it is a cramped corner stationed outside of the dressing rooms. The baby/toddler section at the new store will be about 10 times the size of the current one, and will carry strollers, car seats, and baby furniture - items previously sold at the furniture store due to lack of floor space at the current store.

"Overall, every department has dramatically increased in size and assortment," she said.

"The idea is to make (this complex) a one-stop shopping center for every customer's need."

Additionally, the BookMark bookstore and a toy section will be inside the new PX. Plus, shoppers can also enjoy a meal at the 339- seat food court, which will include:
Aca,!AcTaco Bell
Aca,!AcCharley's Grilled Subs
Aca,!AcPopeye's Chicken and Biscuits
Aca,!AcConcessionaires that will line the shopping center halls include:
Aca,!AcBazooka, fashion forward
Aca,!AcPolish pottery
Aca,!AcNachtmann Crystal
Aca,!AcKatie Wohlfahrt
Aca,!AcJosef Seibel Shoes
Aca,!AcWiFi Amusements
Aca,!AcMain Street Expresso, proudly serving

"The customers will enjoy the latest and greatest that AAFES has to offer," said Matt Mennona, AAFES General Manager. "This mall is state of the art. You will see a wider variety of merchandise. Customers have told us they want to see more branded merchandise and a broader selection. AAFES is positioned to provide for the needs of its customers for many years to come."

The Vilseck PX is slated to close after the new PX opens. Renovations that will take approximately four to five months, according to Mennona, will turn the Vilseck PX into the AAFES Furniture Store.

Col. Brian Boyle, USAG Grafenwoehr commander, will preside over the ceremonies, with doors opening to customers at 9:30 a.m.

(Adriane Foss is a member of the USAG Grafenwoehr Public Affairs Office)