Customer input welcome at AAFES/DeCA council meetings

Commissary shoppers may have noticed more gluten-free products appearing on the Patch Commissary shelves.

Or they may have grabbed a hand sanitizer wipe found at the entrances of all Stuttgart-area commissaries.

Both are results of customer input provided through the U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart Army and Air Force Exchange Service/Defense Commissary Agency quarterly council meetings.

“It’s another way to include customers in the process of how we deliver our products and services,” said Bernard Ellison, the Patch Commissary store director.

The meetings, held with garrison leadership, AAFES and DeCA officials in attendance, are by no means top secret. Anyone can attend.

“We’re always happy to hear the comments from our customers so that we can meet their expectations and demands,” Ellison said.

During the most recent council meeting held June 2, Ellison announced in the near future the Patch Commissary will receive a salad bar. “It will be a reasonably priced, self-service salad bar offering several different salad selections,” he said.

The deli section will also undergo an expansion, which will provide more display space and a larger work area.

Meanwhile, contracted shops within the AAFES Shopping Mall on Panzer Kaserne, such as Käthe Wohlfahrt, are relocating to new spaces within the mall.

New shops and services are also being added — the most significant being a vision center.

According to Frank Niccoll, the Stuttgart AAFES general manager, a full service vision center will open in the fall. Authorized shoppers will be able to see an optometrist and order eye glasses “under one roof.”

A women’s clothing boutique offering European designs will also open.

Community members anticipating the re-opening of the Patch Food Court — closed for renovations since January — will have to wait until September. 

According to  Col. Richard M. Pastore, garrison commander, the project is being delayed for several reasons, one of which most Americans will appreciate: air conditioning.

Details such as these helps to keep community members informed, according to Sandy Leshinsky, a Marine spouse.

 “It helps people to understand at least the reasons why [AAFES and DeCA officials] don’t or can’t do something,” she said.

Lorrie Warchol, a family readiness coordinator for Special Operations Command Europe, attends the council meetings on behalf of the command and its families.

She said she appreciates the responsiveness of the store managers.

As an example, Warchol said in the past she requested that Panzer Commissary open on Saturday for the families who live in the Böblingen Housing Area. “They did a trial run, but unfortunately the numbers didn’t add up,” she said.

The next AAFES/DeCA quarterly council meeting is scheduled for Sept. 1 in the Swabian Special Events Center from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Customer feedback can also be submitted by clicking on the ICE icon on the garrison website at