A crowd of hundreds gathered on Fort Detrick today to celebrate the grand opening of a new commissary facility for active, reserve component and retired military members and their families.

Congressman representatives joined the crowd of anxious shoppers.

The new commissary, said Defense Commissary Agency officials, marks a new level of service for the Fort Detrick community. With almost 34,000 square feet, the new facility offers greater selection and more choices for shoppers.

"This is more than just a new store for our community. We've nearly doubled the sales floor space, which means we now have a much wider selection of products and services to bring to our customers," said Rob Cauffman, store director.

The new commissary is 14,000 square feet larger than its predecessor. New services include a bakery and deli, and the store's spacious layout and design provide easier access for disabled customers and more parking spaces.

Responding to comments from the community, the new store will also be open on Sunday on a test basis.

"The Army commissary was born in 1867, just a few three years after the Battle of Monocacy," said Maj. Gen. George W. Weightman, commander of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command and Fort Detrick. "Back then, they offered a whopping 82 items to Soldiers and families, at cost. Today, I think you'll find more than 82 different varieties of some items."

The store's new and expanded refrigeration systems will help the staff keep fresh produce, chilled dairy and fresh meat products, as well as frozen products at their optimum quality levels for customers.

The store features five checkout stands and two self-checkout stands, which are very popular with customers who buy a few items, Cauffman said.

This facility offers shoppers some 2,000 new line items, said commissary officials, and the grand opening featured more than $5,000 in giveaways and prizes put up by vendors.

The $13.5 million commissary took 20 months to build. It is located on Porter Street between Veterans Drive and Odom Physical Fitness Center. It vacated a building that was built in 1954 as a warehouse and was last renovated in 1992. Fort Detrick officials plan to renovate it for other uses.

"Comparing our new facility to what we had is like night and day. From day one this facility was designed and built to be a commissary, so it's exactly what we need to provide a premier quality of life benefit for the Fort Detrick community," Cauffman said.