09 Jun U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground Commissary honored
YUMA — It’s been called the heart of the U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground (YPG) community, and the excellence experienced by YPG Commissary customers is being recognized at the highest levels of the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA).
The store was recently named the second-best small commissary with DeCA’s Richard M. Paget Award. There are 236 total stores within the DeCA system.
Manager Jason Meade attributes the store’s success to good teamwork and flexibility from the staff of nine.
“We all learn every single aspect of the store,” he said. “An employee scheduled to be a store worker sometimes may have to go run a cash register, or go back and stock the produce and meat. There is no one specific area that anybody is detailed to.”
Meant for use by Soldiers, their Families, military retirees, and wounded or disabled veterans, the prices of the extensive variety of items for sale are noticeably lower than in grocery stores in the private sector.
“We are mandated by Congress to have lower prices than what is on the economy outside the gate.,” said Meade. “On certain days of the week I go through and do a price comparison with them on basic items we carry like milk, eggs, ground beef, and our prices are below them by a significant amount.”
The store boasts of the freshness of its meat and produce, with two deliveries of each per week despite the remoteness of the post.
“We treat our customers the way we want to be treated,” said Meade. “The people who come through our doors are the most-deserving customers in the world: they have earned this benefit, and they need to be treated that way.”
The store is renowned for its customer service, particularly noted by the large population of retirees who winter at YPG’s Travel Camp and shop in the commissary. During the wintertime, these individuals constitute about one-third of the store’s customers.
“We know most of our customers,” said Gabrielle Navarro, store worker. “Anyone who comes in that is new, we typically try to welcome them and let them know that if there is anything they are looking for that we don’t carry, we are more than willing to bring it in. It is a long drive to Yuma, and we want to make sure we have the best variety we can.”
The commissary is open every day except Monday due to its small size. Unless there is a noticeable increase in customers, it is likely to remain this way for the foreseeable future.
“We have to be good stewards of the taxpayer’s dollars,” said Meade. “Right now we have 10 employees, and two of us are managers. We would need at least one more manager and one or two more employees to open that extra day.”
Meade says the warmth of the employees is matched in kind by the customers at YPG.
“This is the warmest welcome I ever had in any place I have ever been, and not just from the weather,” he said. “The heartfelt warmth I’ve been treated with here is incredible.”