Adrienne Threatt shops at the Cherry Point commissary every day it’s open.
“The only day I don’t come is Monday. That’s when they’re closed,” Threatt said as a commissary worker wheeled eight bags of groceries out to her car Tuesday.
Threatt’s husband has been in the military for the last 17 years, and she doesn’t like the idea that the grocery store could be closed as a cost-cutting measure.
“The commissary is part of the base,” she said. “I don’t think it would be fair to lose something that we’ve always had. I shop here for everything from household goods to non-perishables.
“It would be an inconvenience to go off base. The prices are better for sure. For people that don’t have a car, it’s closer to shop than off base.”
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel recently announced the possibility that stateside base commissaries could be closed as the Department of Defense searches for $50 billion in cuts brought on by sequestration, cuts that prompted the closure of Cherry Point’s bowling alley.
Navy Cmdr. Bill Urban, a Pentagon spokesman, said he could not confirm that a plan to close commissaries was in place.
“What I can say is that the Secretary of Defense has made it clear that all options for cost cutting are on the table in order to meet the budget caps associated with the Budget Control Act of 2011,” Urban said. “We need to find ways to save money in order to meet the cost savings reductions that are required by law, so we have to look at wide variety of programs in order to save money.”
Rick Brink, a spokesman for the Defense Commissary Agency, said nothing official has come out about any closure of stateside commissaries.
Brink said Cherry Point’s commissary is one of 245 that the agency manages worldwide. There are 169 in the country, not including Alaska and Hawaii.
Brink said the Cherry Point commissary has about 65 employees, most of whom are part time, as well as baggers and contract workers for a total employment of about 100. The store does about $21 million in annual sales.
Operation of the commissaries is an appropriated fund activity, Brink said, with an annual appropriation from the government of about $1.4 billion.
That means savings for military personnel and their families of about 30 percent, Brink said.
“It’s a benefit,” he said. “By offering that to the military, it’s part of their pay and compensation package. By buying lower-cost groceries, that’s money that they can spend for other things. It’s a quality-of-life benefit.”
And customers know it.
“We buy all of our meats here. They have the best deals,” Marine Gunnery Sgt. Charles Eaton said as he, his wife Maria and young children entered the store on Tuesday.
“We buy everything — diapers, wipes, laundry detergent, toilet paper. We love this place,” Maria Eaton said.
Jenny Wells, an 80-year-old widow of a military man, said she is on a fixed income and shops at the commissary frequently and buys medicine there.
“I’d be out of luck,” Wells said if the commissary should close.
Mary Warehan, of Newport, whose husband was in the military, comes to the commissary to buy her drinking water.
“It’s a lot cheaper than Walmart,” Warehan said. “That would be terrible if they closed the commissary.”