Commissary at Hario may be targeted for closure
Stars and Stripes November 5, 2003
SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan — It was just a memo about a memo about a preliminary recommendation, but it roiled the waters here enough that base skipper Capt. Michael James used a few minutes of a regular command television show Monday evening to ease community concerns.
At issue: a memo from The Assistant Secretary of Defense Office (Personnel and Readiness). That office had crunched some numbers and recommended closing the Hario Housing Village Commissary, the Defense Commissary Agency Pacific regional office told U.S. Naval Forces Japan in another memo.
The reason: The Hario Village commissary is a 30-minute drive from the smaller commissary on main base — and with most of Sasebo’s ships at sea for much of the past two years, business hasn’t exactly been setting records. DECA cannot continue supporting “marginal” stores close to other commissaries, the memo said.
But the Hario facility, at 24,000 square feet — almost three times the size of the 8,375-square-foot main base store — has the base’s only full-sized commissary, carrying most items Americans typically expect to find in a supermarket, shoppers quickly pointed out.
Hario also has about three times the housing units, a base spokeswoman said: 488 to main base’s 148.
For those and other reasons, James indicated on his television show Monday evening, raising the panic flag may be premature. Although the commissary “is being considered for closure at a future date,” he confirmed, “this is not something to lose a lot of sleep over. The recommendation is based on faulty data.”
The Sasebo command and CNFJ are cooperating to compile arguments justifying the Hario Village commissary’s continued operation, he said.
“I just don’t think we’ll get to that point” of closing it, he said. “A lot of people, at a lot of levels, will weigh in. I think it’ll be determined it’s a really bad idea.”
Also, a base spokeswoman said, the Hario Commissary provides meats, produces bakery items and has cold and dry storage for both commissaries — and there is no budget, plans or room for expanding the main base store.
Still — and despite James’ reassurances — Hario Housing Village resident Tanaya Johnson, wife of Petty Officer 2nd Class David Johnson, USS Essex, said she was “shocked” by the news.
James “said not to lose sleep over this but that’s pretty hard to do,” said Johnson, mother of a 7-month-old son. “The Hario Commissary is so convenient and I know a lot of families out here have only one car or no car at all. Yes, I’m still very concerned about it.”
Johnson said she enjoys shopping in Japanese markets but added, “There aren’t enough English signs … sometimes you can look at something and not be positive what it is. They’d have to educate us a lot more.”
USS Harpers Ferry’s Petty Officer 1st Class Reginald Thomas and his wife, Kim, also live in Hario.
Kim Thomas said she’s observed the store getting brisk patronage. “There is good traffic and use of the store, especially around payday. … Sometimes things get a little scarce on the shelves then.”
“Things were not considered,” James said, “things like the ships being underway a large part of the past two years. It’s highly unfair to use those criteria in a decision.”
“Somebody with some sanity will take that into consideration,” he added.