The battle of the food carts at Aberdeen Proving Ground's cramped commissary will end Tuesday when a new grocery facility opens at the post.
The 60,000-square-foot supermarket, with a 31,000-square-foot jTC sales area, looks like the kind of modern-day store that most civilians are familiar with. The supermarket will be used by active military personnel and their families, retired military and members of military reserve units.
For the more than 17,000 shoppers at the proving ground, it is a state-of-the-art improvement over the old building, which was built in 1917 as a horse stable.
Previously, customers had to maneuver through a narrow, almost windowless, football field-length building with a sales area of 14,000 square feet.
"There is no comparison, believe me," said Bill Busick, commissary manager.
The new store has 12 aisles; the old one, which closes at 4 p.m. today, has three. Customers will be able to check out at 16 registers, compared with eight in the other store. And instead of parking in a congested lot with 78 spaces, customers can park in a new lot with 480 spots.
There's more. The $7.2 million building, with its gleaming chrome fixtures and fashionable pearl gray-black-and-white tile floor, features a deli and on-site bakery. Mr. Busick promises tempting aromas of fresh baked cookies and breads wafting through the store through vents.
The expanded produce and frozen food sections are another plus.
Mr. Busick said one of the biggest problems for him in opening the store has been trying to get the 100 store employees -- who come from the old APG store and another commissary in Edgewood that closed Thursday -- to feel comfortable with the increased stock they will be handling.
"I've been telling them they can't become intimidated by the sheer numbers," the energetic Mr. Busick said. For instance, the workers may unpack 120 crates of bananas as compared with 12 previously.
Everything at the store is sold at cost, making commissary shopping one of the top benefits for military personnel, Mr. Busick said. Also, there are no taxes.
A 5 percent surcharge tacked onto the customers' bills covers the general operating expenses, he explained.
It can be quite a savings. A brand-name box of cereal can cost a dollar less than in a regular retail grocery store; a 12-ounce can of frozen orange juice can be 80 cents less; and a popular sparkling bottled water goes for 40 cents less.
The commissary manager is anticipating $3 million in monthly sales at the store by April.
The expanded market, which is under the auspices of the Defense Commissary Agency, is also expected to draw shoppers who may have gone to commissaries at the Dover, Del., and Fort Meade bases, Mr. Busick said.
He also hopes to attract more soldiers to the store, which is on Aberdeen Boulevard, across from the Main Post Exchange.
"Single soldiers with no cars, who live in the nearby barracks, will be able to shop here easier," Mr. Busick said.
Tuesday's ribbon-cutting ceremonies will start at 9 a.m. with guests Maj. Gen. Richard W. Tragemann, post commander, and Col. John M. Taylor, deputy installation commander.
Several state and county officials also have been invited to the festivities.
The store will be open only to those with military IDs.