With gallery: Costco opening draws hundreds to sample food and shop for discounts
At 8 a.m. on Friday mornings, Ypsilanti resident Elaine Dowell is usually just arriving to her job as a coordinator for the University of Michigan’s Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation program.
But today, Dowell had a different agenda in mind.
“I’ve just been waiting for Costco to open, so I wanted to be one of the first people to be here,” she said. “Everybody said I was crazy and it would be really crowded, but I knew it’d be fun with the crowds and excitement.”
Dowell was one of hundreds of people that came out Friday for the grand opening of the new store, which is located near the corner of State and Ellsworth roads in Pittsfield Township. The store opened at 7:45 a.m., 15 minutes earlier than planned.
By 8:30 a.m., the parking lot was filling up and the store’s first customers were heading back to their cars with shopping carts full of inflatable inner tubes, bulk-packaged paper towel, produce, cases of wine and dozens of other items.
Dowell and her friend, Arnetta Ford, said they prepared a mental list of items they planned to buy: avocadoes, peppered bacon, rotisserie chicken and possibly a new TV.
But they said things have a way of just “jumping in the cart” when they shop at Costco.
“We’re going to go up and down the aisles and whatever falls in the cart, we’ll buy,” Dowell joked.
Warehouse manager Bill Linfield called the turnout for the store’s grand opening “fantastic.” Even better, he said, tons of people were signing up for memberships outside the store. Memberships range from $55 to $110 annually, and customers have to purchase one to shop.
For Ann Arbor resident Eric Klein, coming to Costco’s grand opening was “more of a principle thing.”
Klein showed up at 6:30 a.m. and stood outside the locked doors for more than an hour before it opened.
“I love Costco,” he said. “They focus on quality goods and their whole philosophy of how they run their business from the ground up is customer centric. Costco is about delivering the best service to customers — I appreciate that — and it’s a difficult thing to find these days without paying tremendously large margins to support that.”
Linfield said he hired about 180 employees to work at the store and gas station. Positions range from pharmacists to stockers, cashiers, bakers and many more. He said most of the employees are part-time, but he’s already promoting some to full-time positions.
Plans for the store were approved by Pittsfield Township in August 2011. Construction moved quickly, thanks in part to favorable winter weather, Linfield said.
Pittsfield Township Supervisor Mandy Grewal, who participated in a ribbon cutting at the store Friday morning, said the 150,000-square-foot building and 720 parking spaces are designed to be visible from the road and pedestrian friendly.
"The Pittsfield Township Costco illustrates a new model of retail building wherein the setback is significantly reduced so that the storefront is bought up to the road and sidewalk network,” she said. “This, along with the wide sidewalk dissecting the parking lot in the middle, improves pedestrian and bike access directly into the store and places parking behind the store."
Darla Meeks, a Manchester resident and self-proclaimed “Costco lover,” was elated to be the first person to purchase a fountain Diet Coke from the store at 7:55 a.m. Friday.
“It’s new; smell the new in here,” she said. “This is my first cart. I’m the first one to buy a Diet Coke at the new Costco.”
She said having the store in Washtenaw County will enable her to save money on food items she wasn't able to purchase in Brighton.
“Brighton was the closest store for me, but it’s still far,” she said. “I’ve been waiting, waiting, waiting for this one to open. I heard that it was in the works and then they broke ground, and I would drive by all the time to see the progress.”
She added: “I’ll come here about every four days. I would like to buy more of the meats, milk, eggs and other food stuff. This will be as easy as running into Meijer now.”
Costco, located at 771 Airport Boulevard, is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., Saturday 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.