My friend Jen was laughing over Ketchupgate—that thing in which Washington Post implied the commissary system was extravagent because it carried filet mignon and 15 kinds of ketchup.
“You can stretch your arms across the commissary in Annapolis and bump your elbows before you ever hit the freezer section,” she claimed. “Not every commissary is nice.”
True enough. No one walks through a commissary and thinks they stumbled into a Dean & DeLuca by mistake. No one forgets that this isn’t Whole Foods or a Harris Teeter or even a Ralph’s.
What the benefits haters don’t know is that it wasn’t always that way. When we were stationed in Sasebo, Japan, I was shocked by the tiny commissary on Main Base—like a 7-Eleven with produce. I was irritated when the commissary didn’t have pasta or vanilla for six months because of an infestation at the warehouse.
I still remember walking through the pre-Hurricane Katrina commissary in New Orleans and having the word “grotty” dance in my head. Or maybe that was just fumes the dairy case making me woozy.
A lot of those bad commissaries have been demolished, updated, reconstructed. When I contacted the Defense Commissary Agency, public affairs specialist Kevin L. Robinson told me that since 9/11, 62 major commissary construction projects have been completed.. That includes 34 new stores and 28 major addition/alteration projects around the world.
Those projects were long overdue—not an extravagance. But talking it over made Jen and I wonder if there are still any bad commissaries around? Jen’s commissary at Annapolis is slated for construction next year. My grotty commissary in New Orleans was rebuilt two years ago.
Have we reached the end of new construction for commissaries or is there still more work to do? Do you remember when commissaries were not so nice? What do you like best about your local commissary now?