Europe Spotlight: Robert Colella
So how did your store walk away with the award this year? There are certainly bigger bases and commissaries out there than Baumholder.
Actually, the competition is rough. Everyone wants to be recognized as the best large overseas commissary, and that includes the Pacific. It’s not just Europe. I guess the biggest contributing factor is the region’s staff that supports the commissaries. It’s really their support. Without them it would be difficult to meet the customer’s demands and the military community’s needs here in Baumholder.
What do you think set you guys apart? Every year the commissary has customer service surveys. They rate the store from hours of operations, to cleanliness, fully stocked shelves, product availability, customer service. They rank us on a scale of five and I think the community rated us a 4.9. That’s one of the criteria.
Do you ever hear from critics? What do they complain about? It’s when you get the new families who just arrive in Baumholder. It’s a shock treatment. They’re used to having the capability to shop 24/7. They get up at 2 in the morning and go shopping. A product they used to buy at mom and pop store we don’t have. Or they came from the Pacific where they were able to get certain products specific to that economy. Or we’ve had people come in from the South and want to get some crawdads.
Some what? Crawdads.
What are those? It’s a shellfish they use down there in the South. If it’s possible we’ll look and see if the product is available in the commissary files. If not, we’ll go out to try and please the customer and see if it’s cost effective. Most of all, I think the customers appreciate what they have. So you can’t please everybody, but we give it our best. And we bend over backwards to try and make everybody happy. Sometimes there are certain customers that no matter what we do, you can’t please them.
Here in Baumholder you have about 4,000 or so soldiers who are currently deployed in Iraq. How does that impact the way you run the store? I’m sure we’re not the only commissary with troops deployed. Once the soldiers deploy, the families basically aren’t making as big of purchases. So now, it’s trying to meet the needs of the customers on a day-to-day basis and still maintain standards of accountability. All of our departments, from produce to the meat department, bakery, the deli, are all accountable. If you over-order and you don’t have the business, your accountability is shot.
So what’s the most popular item here in Baumholder? I would guess it’s those deli sandwiches. There’s usually a long line for those.When the soldiers are here we sell 300 to 400 sandwiches per lunch break. That’s a lot of sandwiches.
Interview by John Vandiver. Know someone whose accomplishments, talents, job, hobby, volunteer work, awards or good deeds qualify them for 15 minutes of fame? How about someone whose claim to glory is a bit out of the ordinary — even, dare we say, oddball? Send the person’s name and contact information to: email@example.com.
Who: Robert Colella
Job: Manager of the Baumholder commissary, which in May was named Best Large Commissary Overseas for 2008 by the Defense Commissary Agency.