Second Largest Commissary in Military Opens at Peterson AFB

Published Aug. 4, 2007 by Colorado Springs Gazette.

In true military fashion, drinks, cans and produce were perfectly placed on shelves and in displays to welcome hundreds of shoppers to a new commissary that opened Friday at Peterson Air Force Base — a facility said to be the second-largest in the military.

“We are blessed now with cows from a thousand hills. Most of that is sitting in the beef aisle right now,” said chaplain Rex Williams to bowed but giggling heads during the ceremony’s invocation. Col. Jay Raymond, base commander, echoed his chaplain’s excitement. “To go up and down every aisle would amount to a three-quarters-of-a-mile hike. At any given time, there’s over $2 million of items on the shelves. I could go on and on, but people want to shop.”

Commissaries are military grocery stores, while exchanges, like the one opened in June, are the equivalent of a department store.

Together, the exchange and commissary is twice as large as its “small and old” predecessor.

“It’s state of the art,” Raymond said, adding that it should enhance the quality of life of servicemen and -women.

New features include a barbershop, a food court and a Starbucks in the exchange and a sushi bar and a chicken rotisserie spit in the commissary. Computerized kiosks in the produce, meat, and health and wellness departments suggest health advice and provide recipes for shoppers. The families of military personnel and retirees can also shop here.

“Well, to be honest, my wife made me come because she works here,” said Tech Sgt. Rodney Hopkins, who was near the front of the line with his son Ron and daughter Essence. “I work midshift so I should be at home sleeping.”

Instead, he was among more than 250 people in a quarter-mile-long line waiting to enter the commissary before a 9 a.m. grand opening.

Hopkins is a “big-time” commissary connoisseur, having visited several while based in Europe and around the U.S. His wife let him in earlier this week to take a look, and he gives the new store his blessings, especially the new selection of spices, which he thinks has tripled from the variety at the old commissary. “Since I’m a chef and I saw their spice aisle, oh man, I’m gonna hit that up,” he said.

Once inside, shoppers were treated to a variety of free samples, such as organic rib-eye steak and freshly cut fruits and vegetables. Recognizable personalities were on hand, among them the Energizer Bunny, the Denver Broncos cheerleaders and a nightmarishly large fabric softener mascot named Snuggle Bear who was giving away pint-size bears.

Air Force officials promised “the best prices ever offered” at a Peterson commissary. More than $50,000 in washer and dryer sets, flat-screen TVs and gift certificates were given away in drawings.

Angela McRath’s sister Sandra is based at Fort Carson. McRath’s daughter and nephew came for back-to-school shopping, while she had her own reason.

“The word for today is ‘sale,’” Angela McRath said, laughing. “We’re here for whatever’s on sale.”



– Second-largest commissary in the military, behind Naval Base San Diego.

– Covers about 240,000 square feet. c Total cost for new commissary and exchange: $33 million. – The new center was paid for with money raised from a 5 percent overcharge.

– Construction began Oct. 17, 2005.

– About 8,000 new food selections on commissary shelves.

– Nearly 60,000 military personnel, retirees and their families are in Colorado Springs and the surrounding area.

Source: Peterson Air Force Base 

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