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Commissary is a popular destination

GRAND FORKS AIR FORCE BASE - Grocery stores are not "a dime a dozen" in North Dakota. In fact, some people travel up to 200 miles to shop at the Grand Forks Air Force Base Commissary, said Irene Apgar, store director.

GRAND FORKS AIR FORCE BASE - Grocery stores are not "a dime a dozen" in North Dakota. In fact, some people travel up to 200 miles to shop at the Grand Forks Air Force Base Commissary, said Irene Apgar, store director.

Unlike larger cities, where a store seems to appear on every other corner, residents in small towns may or may not have access to stores within their communities and will be forced to travel for grocery purchases.

The base not only has a store, but a new one built in 2004.

"The old building was added on to several times; there was always construction, upgrading and patchwork; finally they said, 'Enough is enough' and there was enough funding to get a new one," said Stephanie Crouch, commissary employee for nearly 26 years.

The new building is a lot brighter with newer features, Crouch said. There's fewer problems with refrigeration and utility costs have gone down.

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Though the square footage may be slightly smaller, the new building is more efficient because everything is in a logical place up and down the isles and not in coves, Crouch said.

The Grand Forks commissary continues to serve more than just on-base military families.

Not only can active and retired Air Force personnel use the commissary, but also members of the Army, Navy, Marines, Guard, Reserve and all retired service families.

"Families can save 30 percent on groceries and even more than that on meat and produce," Apgar said.

Local community stores as well as those in Grand Forks rely on mark-up to make a profit, but the commissary sells products at cost, as part of a military incentive.

"A family of four saves more than $3,000 a year," Apgar said

A tax is not accessed on the purchased items, but a 5 percent surcharge is added to all bills, which will fund new buildings or modernize existing structures.

"The surcharge hasn't changed," Apgar said, who has worked with commissaries for 30 years.

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Grand Forks is one of the smallest - but nicest commissaries Apgar has worked in, she says, noting that the size is relative to the size of the base itself, which is fairly small.

Although the store may be small, requests are welcome.

"We've had quite a bit of success acquiring some of the suggestions people have made," Apgar said.

Another perk to having a commissary on base is the employment opportunity, especially for young teens.

"This is a family here," Apgar said. The commissary is closed Mondays for truck shipments and stocking, but is open Tuesday through Saturday 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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