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Kiyoichi Takahashi, one of 55 Japanese national employees at Misawa Air Base’s commissary in northern Japan, stacks onions Wednesday. The Defense Commissary Agency this week named Misawa as the best large commissary overseas for 2005, the second consecutive year the store has won the award.

Kiyoichi Takahashi, one of 55 Japanese national employees at Misawa Air Base’s commissary in northern Japan, stacks onions Wednesday. The Defense Commissary Agency this week named Misawa as the best large commissary overseas for 2005, the second consecutive year the store has won the award. (Jennifer H. Svan / S&S)

Kiyoichi Takahashi, one of 55 Japanese national employees at Misawa Air Base’s commissary in northern Japan, stacks onions Wednesday. The Defense Commissary Agency this week named Misawa as the best large commissary overseas for 2005, the second consecutive year the store has won the award.

Kiyoichi Takahashi, one of 55 Japanese national employees at Misawa Air Base’s commissary in northern Japan, stacks onions Wednesday. The Defense Commissary Agency this week named Misawa as the best large commissary overseas for 2005, the second consecutive year the store has won the award. (Jennifer H. Svan / S&S)

The Misawa Air Base commissary employs about 55 Japanese nationals and 11 U.S. civilians.

The Misawa Air Base commissary employs about 55 Japanese nationals and 11 U.S. civilians. (Jennifer H. Svan / S&S)

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — For the second straight year, the Defense Commissary Agency named Misawa as the best large overseas commissary.

DECA announced the winners of the 2005 competition Wednesday, singling out five commissaries among 268 worldwide.

“This year’s winners represent the cream of the crop in our profession, and I salute them for their dedication to excellence and pride in a job well done,” Patrick Nixon, DECA chief executive officer and acting director, said in a statement.

Stores were judged in four categories: accountability, unit cost, commissary customer service survey and sales.

Misawa excelled in unit cost, said store administrator Matt Whittaker: “We have one of the lowest operation unit costs in DECA — what it costs us to earn a dollar” when accounting for payroll, utilities, maintenance and other expenses. “It costs us about 65 cents to the dollar to operate.”

A cost-sharing agreement with Japan helps keep those costs down, said grocery manager Daniel Austin. The Japanese government pays the wages of 55 local national employees and a percentage of utilities, he said.

But beyond operating efficiently, Misawa’s commissary keeps customers satisfied, Whittaker said, a claim supported by complimentary customer surveys and sales growth.

“We’re drawing them to our commissary and providing the best benefits that we can,” he said. “That’s what it boils down to.”

Shoppers on Wednesday said they liked that the store was clean and that they generally can find what they need.

“I’m loving it, especially because they have that nice variety of local cuisine,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Shawn Carter of the Naval Communications Detachment at Misawa. “I get those beef bowls and they have fried rice.”

Besides the recognition, employees also will get a bonus, Austin said.

“No store in the history of DECA has taken the best store two years consecutively,” he said, noting that store manager Jack Younger was in Norfolk, Va., where DECA this week honored the 2005 winners.

DECA competition

The Defense Commissary Agency has recognized five commissaries as the best in the world for 2005. The awards are named in memory of legislators who protected the commissary benefit and championed quality-of-life issues for the military and families, according to DECA officials.

Peterson Air Force Base, Colo. — Bill Nichols Award for the Best Large Commissary in the United States

Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center Picatinny Arsenal, N.J. — Richard M. Paget Award for the Best Small Commissary in the United States

Misawa Air Base, Japan — Dan Daniel Award for the Best Large Commissary Overseas

Garmisch, Germany — L. Mendel Rivers Award for the Best Small Commissary Overseas

Fort Lewis, Wash. — Director’s Award for the Best Superstore

— Jennifer H. Svan

author picture
Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.

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