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(Enlarge) Jennie Ochman, an Ellicott City resident, shops at the Fort Meade Commissary during its new early bird shopping hours.

It's 8:15 a.m. on July 19 and Jennie Ochman is shopping at the Fort Meade Commissary while she waits for her husband, a retired master sergeant, to complete an appointment at Kimbrough Ambulatory Care Center. Few people are shopping at this early hour, but that's why Ochman, an Ellicott City resident, is here.

"I like it. It's very nice. No kids are running around and it's convenient," Ochman said as she pushed her shopping cart up an aisle to buy some apple juice.

Ochman is one of the many shoppers who are taking advantage of the new early-bird hours at the store. The commissary is now open 7-9 a.m. Monday-Friday, specifically for early bird shoppers.

"This is extra customer service for the patrons," said Frank Macias, store administrator.

The commissary began offering early-bird hours May and Macias said the hours will be available indefinitely. Early-bird shoppers are limited to 15 items or less and must ring-up their orders through one of the store's four self-checkout lanes, Macias said. A customer service representative is available to help customers if they have any questions.

Macias said shoppers are limited to 15 items because the early-bird hours were designed specifically for customers who want to do light shopping. "When people come to shop early, it's usually for breakfast items," Macias said. He noted that early-bird shoppers also come in to itmes for lunch.

Customers who want to buy more than 15 items are required to come in during the commissary's regular hours. The commissary is open from 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-9 p.m. on Saturday and 9 a.m.-6 p.m. on Sunday.

Macias said the early-bird hours are growing in popularity. More than 600 shoppers visited the commissary during its early hours in June, and Macias said he hopes the numbers continue to grow.

"Sometimes I just want to get a few items and I don't want to deal with the long lines in the afternoon and in the evening," said Heterrisa Nuiriankh, a retired master sergeant who has been shopping at the commissary for seven years. "I'm an early-morning person and I like to get my shopping out of the way."

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