The commissary in Hanau, Germany, was named best large commissary in Europe by DECA-Europe.

The commissary in Hanau, Germany, was named best large commissary in Europe by DECA-Europe. (Michael Abrams / S&S)

When it comes to grocery shopping, Camp Darby, Italy, and Hanau, Germany, apparently are the places to go in Europe.

The Defense Commissary Agency-Europe announced Thursday that its stores at the two locations have been honored as the best in Europe. They’ll now compete against the top commissaries from the Pacific to determine the best stores outside the States.

Michael Dowling, the director of DECA-Europe, said the designations are significant.

“Every store would like to have a best large or best small commissary trophy in their trophy case,” he said in a release.

Both stores have won numerous awards over the years and each is managed by a longtime DECA employee.

Hanau, which opened on Wolfgang Casern in 1986, was selected as the top large commissary. The facility is much older than stores in locations such as Heidelberg, Mannheim and Vogelweh.

Store director Riccardo Lieffort said the appearance of the building plays only a small part in the judging. Customer satisfaction gauged through surveys, department-by-department reviews, product displays and managing costs also play a role.

The store’s annual sales of $15.6 million ranked behind only four other commissaries in Europe, Lieffort said. Its 91 American and local national employees also are responsible for operations in Gelnhausen and Büdingen.

Lieffort, who has worked for DECA since 1976, said the Hanau community should be proud of the designation.

“We don’t always get much of the spotlight here,” he said, compared to larger military communities in Germany.

The spotlight seemingly is always shining on the commissary at Camp Darby, which seems to win small category commissary honors every year.

“No, not every year,” said store director Giuseppe Ricci, with a laugh.

Darby, a small base whose population grows with American tourists in the summer, is the only one of 59 DECA facilities in Europe that has a work force entirely made up of local national employees. Its 27 Italian employees sell about $2.7 million worth of products annually.

Ricci, who has been working at the store since 1991, is the first Italian to manage the store. He describes the secret to the store’s success in one word: “Teamwork.”

Lieffort is well aware of the history of success at Darby. He was the store manager there in 1994 when it earned best small commissary honors outside the States.

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Kent has filled numerous roles at Stars and Stripes including: copy editor, news editor, desk editor, reporter/photographer, web editor and overseas sports editor. Based at Aviano Air Base, Italy, he’s been TDY to countries such as Afghanistan Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia. Born in California, he’s a 1988 graduate of Humboldt State University and has been a journalist for 40 years.

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