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Commissary strives to meet customers' needs

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- Greg McGruder, commissary manager, speaks with customers Katie Cudzilo and Britta Strop about the produce displayed Sept. 4, 2008. Inputs from customers help Mr. McGruder and his team provide quality produce at lower prices. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Araceli Alarcon)

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- Greg McGruder, commissary manager, speaks with customers Katie Cudzilo and Britta Strop about the produce displayed Sept. 4, 2008. Inputs from customers help Mr. McGruder and his team provide quality produce at lower prices. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Araceli Alarcon)

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- Suto Chiyuki, commissary produce department superintendent, and Greg McGruder, commissary manager, check displays at the commissary designed to catch shopper's eyes as they walk in Sept. 4, 2008. Mr. McGruder and his team are finding new ways of improving the quality and price of the produce sold at the commissary. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Araceli Alarcon)

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- Suto Chiyuki, commissary produce department superintendent, and Greg McGruder, commissary manager, check displays at the commissary designed to catch shopper's eyes as they walk in Sept. 4, 2008. Mr. McGruder and his team are finding new ways of improving the quality and price of the produce sold at the commissary. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Araceli Alarcon)

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- Toshiko Ebina, commissary produce department manager, checks the quality of all packaged produce before placing it out for consumers to purchase Sept. 4, 2008. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Araceli Alarcon)

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- Toshiko Ebina, commissary produce department manager, checks the quality of all packaged produce before placing it out for consumers to purchase Sept. 4, 2008. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Araceli Alarcon)

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- For many military families, it can be a challenge to move overseas and adapt to changes in the environment or culture, such as shopping or certain type of foods. 

Here at the Misawa Air Base commissary, there are changes as well, but for the better. The new commissary manager, Greg McGruder, who recently arrived here from Fort Lee, Va., is doing all he can to ensure that while stationed here, customers are able to get everything they need. 

"Many customers are not aware that if they don't see something in the store we can order it for them," said Mr. McGruder. "Our goal is to field as many new items as the customer wants." 

Ordering new items is done through a special order program. The commissary does this by reaching out to different central distribution centers, such as Okinawa, Yokota or Zama, according to Mr. McGruder. 

"One new item added to the inventory recently is frozen potatoes from Idaho," said Mr. McGruder. "In the past, we only had the Japanese potatoes, which have a different flavor from the Idaho potatoes." 

Pork schnitzel, rotisserie barbecue chicken, cut honey dew melons and watermelons have also been added to the inventory, and prices are now lower on fruit. 

"We are now ordering fruit from local vendors out of Tokyo as well as a U.S. contractor, resulting in better quality and cheaper costs," said Mr. McGruder. "The commissary recently conducted a price survey against two local supermarkets and the commissary prices are 66.9 percent below the markets outside of the gate." 

Also brand new to the commissary is a student hire program. This program is being run by the retail manager, Sharon Chai. 

"It has been done at other bases, but it is brand new to Misawa," said Mr. McGruder. "We are looking for any students 16 and older who are interested in working at the commissary." 

The students will be trained in all facets of the commissary from the produce section to the warehouse to accounting, added Mr. McGruder. 

Mr. McGruder's goal is to continue to cater to the needs of patrons. 

"Equipment for a sushi bar has been ordered," said Mr. McGruder. "It will feature fresh sushi made right on the premises." 

With new products, such as sushi, servicemembers and families can find a greater variety to put in their lunchboxes or on their kitchen tables. 

"The opportunity to get fresh sushi on base during my lunch hour is great; I look forward to that," said Master Sgt. Mat Nisotis, 35th Fighter Wing, Public Affairs superintendent. 

Tech. Sgt. Sandy Reside is also looking forward to this too. 

"This is a great idea," said the unit training manager from the 35th Medical Squadron. "I'll enjoy getting my sushi at the commissary if I want to instead of having to go downtown. Doing something like this makes it really convenient." 

So far, Mr. McGruder who has been at Misawa since July 22, said he is enjoying his tour here. 

"The staff here at the commissary has been together many years and it's great working with them toward our common goal," said Mr. McGruder. "They are proud to work here and to serve our customers."