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Posted on Fri, Jun 29, 2012 : 12:15 p.m.

Costco opening draws hundreds to sample food and shop for discounts

By Lizzy Alfs

Related story: Inside Costco: New store generating big 'buzz' in the Ann Arbor area

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.

Read more about the new store here.

Lizzy Alfs is a business reporter for Reach her at 734-623-2584 or email her at Follow her on Twitter at



Mon, Jul 2, 2012 : 2:35 a.m.

Though I'm a member, there is one thing I don't like about Costco - its check-out procedure: You pay at the register, just like everywhere else, but then you have to wait in a second line, this one at the store's exit, and give your receipt to the clerk. The clerk, in turn, compares the receipt with the items in your cart (one assumes to make sure that you're not stealing anything) and then sends you on your merry way. Rather annoying, insulting (are all customers suspects?), and seemingly unnecessary (because there's no merchandise between the cashiers and the exit, there is nothing to steal. Thus, why go through this?).

Chris Hall

Mon, Jul 2, 2012 : 11:25 p.m.

I hate it too. However, yesterday halfway through my shopping at the new Costco I wanted to get a bite to eat. So, I asked if I could take my cart through the checkout lines, get some food, and then return to finish my shopping. They said yes, no problem. I think that's part of it, you can bring your merchandise past checkout without paying for it. And, no doubt they are trying to curb stealing. Incidentally, at Sam's Club they recently began cracking down on this by requiring all of their cashiers to once again do the ridiculously time-consuming act of moving all merchandise from your cart to an empty one. I bought 30 bags of ice recently - nothing else - and they moved every single one of them to a new flat cart. I guess I could have hidden some smoked salmon between the ice.


Sat, Jun 30, 2012 : 10:17 p.m.

I love this country. So funny.


Sat, Jun 30, 2012 : 9:10 p.m.

Is their gas any cheaper? Sam's membership is worth it just for the cheap gas.


Mon, Jul 2, 2012 : 2:26 a.m.

And Costco's gas prices are competitive with Kroger's.


Sun, Jul 1, 2012 : 4:57 a.m.

No. Today, the Speedway nearby had the same price as Costco's gas station.


Sat, Jun 30, 2012 : 8:17 p.m.

Costco has people signing up for Memberships OUTSIDE of the store in this heat??? You MUST be kidding. If that is their idea of customer service, I think I'll be looking elsewhere. Unbelievable.

Chris Hall

Mon, Jul 2, 2012 : 11:26 p.m.

You can sign up online, then you just go to customer service and get your card. I did that and it was super fast.


Sat, Jun 30, 2012 : 6:01 p.m.

Other than Trader Joes, I prefer to shop at Michigan based stores. With Hillers, Busch's, and Meijer, as well as Farmers Market here, I will avert Cosco's just as I do Kroger and Walmart. Without going to the Costco, you can find out via a t.v. "documentary" and (likely) unline that Costco carries huge volumes of a number of very limited choices. I don't even want a tablespoon of the mayonnaise they sell, let alone multiple jars packaged together. If I want paper towels and toilet tissue in bulk, I'll buy extras when they are on sale. I want to buy fresh produce in quantities that we will eat while it's still fresh. I want choices of items and brands instead of huge quantities of what is not my first choice. Also, it's not cheaper when there's a lot of waste and when you end up with items you didn't want and won't use. Yes, I have been in two Costcos. Several years ago I was in the Novi (or is it Northville) store on Haggerty Road. A couple of years ago I was in a Chicago store with relatives. We were considering staying extra days so I bought (they checked out with it) a package of briefs for my husband and a few toiletry items and vitamins. But I was astounded at the array of processed food (overprocessed) and even at the quantities of pre-packaged produce a person had to buy in order to get any produce. With such large quantities of certain items, will most people limit the variety of produce items they buy? Buy Michigan.

Chris Hall

Mon, Jul 2, 2012 : 11:27 p.m.

Costco and Sam's definitely cater most to businesses and larger families. However, even with just one baby in the house you could pay for the membership buying diapers alone.


Sun, Jul 1, 2012 : 12:32 a.m.

Pioneer sugar-Made in Michigan for just one example.

Deb Burch

Sat, Jun 30, 2012 : 4:32 p.m.

They could use some signs on South State street.


Sat, Jun 30, 2012 : 2:25 p.m.

@Jack Gladney .... LOL!! Agreed!!


Sat, Jun 30, 2012 : 2:15 a.m.

Amazing. I do enjoy Costco, however I am wondering why we the willow run plant and the transmission tech. center go. Those were thousands of jobs AND the the total compensation was in the six figures. Yes, including the hourly workers. Certain disdain for manufacturing,eh!

Basic Bob

Sat, Jun 30, 2012 : 3:36 a.m.

It's much easier to drive your foreign "luxury" car to Costco than to care about your fellow citizens. Of course there aren't too many Costco employees who can afford a BMW or Benz unless it is 20 years old.


Sat, Jun 30, 2012 : 1:49 a.m.

Many of the Beemers, Mercs, Audis and Lexii are owned by the owners of those cute little bistros, shoppes, and delis that you'd rather hang out at downtown. They buy all their raw materials there and sell them to you with some low pay labor added. Its just so perfect for Ann Arbor !


Sat, Jun 30, 2012 : 4:26 a.m.

That's right. You'll see a lot of restaurant owners in there as well. Just like at Sam's Club.


Fri, Jun 29, 2012 : 10:01 p.m.

I was there today and having not been to a Costco before, it was a good experience. Lots and lots of free food samples, bottles of water, a $10 gift certificate if you signed up for a membership, and a lot of different inventory. People working there were very upbeat, which is nice to see in a big box store. Prices were varied. On some food items, prices were a pretty good deal, on others, not so much. You do need to think in Army portions. All items are packaged in large quantities, which can work for some things. They had a lot of gourmet items, which was surprising. One interesting observation, as I pulled into their parking lot, I followed a Mercedes and a beemer, saw many Audis parked in the lot, along with several Jags, and other fancy cars (huge Lincoln Suvs, etc). No shortage of upscale shoppers today at Costco......Not sure why a Costco would attract this crowd, but the store was certainly packed early in the day.

Chris Hall

Mon, Jul 2, 2012 : 11:35 p.m.

Yes, interesting. After three extensive visits in the last four days I can say that there are a few extravagant items - I saw a diamond necklace for $140,000 (that's not a typo). However, the vast majority of stuff in the store is equivalent to Sam's. Costco definitely has a bigger selection, and they have way more organic food than I expected to see. Fresh bread is woefully underrepresented for such a store. I think they have figured out a gimmicky way to "seem" upscale enough to attract some wealthy people - but mostly to make the average Joe "feel" as though they're shopping at a more upscale big box store. Great marketing tactic.


Sat, Jun 30, 2012 : 5:38 p.m.

I wonder if it is the board members and not just the upscale clientele that are buying there. I much prefer my blue collar Sams Club. Much closer to home.


Sat, Jun 30, 2012 : 2:24 p.m.

It's how they can afford those types of vehicles ;)


Sat, Jun 30, 2012 : 4:25 a.m.

Halter, check this out.


Sat, Jun 30, 2012 : 12:09 a.m.

Costco has always attracted upscale clientele - it has always been like that. The types of items they sell are much more upscale than Sams Club for example. Their home goods and electronics in paticular are much higher quality than the Sam's equivalents (i.e. Costco shoppers buy more upscale Panasonic and Nikon cameras, whereas Sam's for example sells more middle-of-the-road Canon models....)

M. Hawkins

Fri, Jun 29, 2012 : 9:30 p.m.

Wonder how long before Costco customers discover the secret Zingermans stores that are so close. Although they are hidden away pretty well...

Chris Hall

Mon, Jul 2, 2012 : 11:37 p.m.

The two are very complementary. Costco seems to think everyone wants one or two types of fresh bread - enter Zingerman's with 10 great varieties.


Sat, Jun 30, 2012 : 1:26 a.m.

They are interested and have already discovered the Zingermans strip of stores.


Sat, Jun 30, 2012 : 12:09 a.m.

99 percent of Costco shoppers aren't interested in Zingerman's type stores...


Fri, Jun 29, 2012 : 7:21 p.m.

"At 8 a.m. on Friday mornings, Ypsilanti resident Elaine Dowell is usually just arriving..." 8 a.m. is morning. "8 a.m. on Friday mornings" is redundant.


Sat, Jun 30, 2012 : 2:23 p.m.

Who cares?


Sat, Jun 30, 2012 : 2:32 a.m.

WHY does there always have to be someone to be so dang critical with a sentence that may be redundant or other insignificant details - is ones life that boring they have nothing better to do than look for this stuff - just saying relax


Fri, Jun 29, 2012 : 7:20 p.m.

Me will be crowed at the store all weekend but I plan to get a membership very soon.


Fri, Jun 29, 2012 : 7:17 p.m.

it is a nice store. aisles are smaller than sams. get two carts side by side one has to give. i really did not notice much different except names of products. it was $20.00 more and i do not think it is worth it. not the money only. it will depend on where i am is where i will shop.


Fri, Jun 29, 2012 : 7:11 p.m.

Note that the pharmacy usually has different hours, although they aren't yet on their website. They close at 7PM during the week, and are closed all day on Sunday.


Fri, Jun 29, 2012 : 7:09 p.m.

To my knowledge, Costco doesn't offer any grand opening incentives like bigger discounts. So, why would you get it line at 6:30 for an 8AM opening? If you go next Tuesday you pay the same price. Also, while it's nice that Costco is now here, Brighton and Livonia were both within 20-30 minutes, so it's not like you couldn't have gone to a Costco if you had wanted to. By the way, great birthday cakes. Sheet for $17 or $18. Feeds a lot.

Chris Hall

Mon, Jul 2, 2012 : 11:38 p.m.

Right. Go online and avoid the crazy sign-up lines altogether.


Sat, Jun 30, 2012 : 5:36 p.m.

Sounds like another day after turkey day incentive to go buy something you really do not need.


Fri, Jun 29, 2012 : 7:08 p.m.

I buy everything at Costco (even the things I do not need :) )- been a member for over 20 years from my California days.


Fri, Jun 29, 2012 : 6:51 p.m.

Meh. I'll get my coffin there but that is about it.

Madeleine Borthwick

Sat, Jun 30, 2012 : 5:59 p.m.

smokeblwr, do they also sell funerary urns?


Sat, Jun 30, 2012 : 5:35 p.m.

Have you tried it out to see if it fits? Or feels like you could spend an eternity there?

Chris Hall

Fri, Jun 29, 2012 : 7:23 p.m.

Is it hard to get good customer service for a damaged coffin? I'd think the rep would be tempted to put you off for a couple of weeks and see if the problem resolved itself.


Fri, Jun 29, 2012 : 7:13 p.m.

I don't know why more people don't buy coffins there, although they seem to get damaged sometimes in shipping per the advance research I've done online.

Jack Gladney

Fri, Jun 29, 2012 : 6:50 p.m.

The day I stand in line for 90 minutes to walk into a store, or am excited about buying a diet Coke there, feel free to shoot me. (p.s. I like Costco)

Chris Hall

Fri, Jun 29, 2012 : 6:35 p.m.

Hey Lizzie, I can heard crickets when I look at this story. Where are all the commenters? They must be at Costco :)

Chris Hall

Fri, Jun 29, 2012 : 6:36 p.m.

I mean Lizzy.


Fri, Jun 29, 2012 : 6:02 p.m.

Can you enter a Costco without a membership (i.e. to look around to decide whether or not to buy a membership)?


Sat, Jun 30, 2012 : 12:38 a.m.

Yes you can. My wife and I spent time in there today to see what they have and to enjoy the Costco buffet.


Fri, Jun 29, 2012 : 8:51 p.m.

Yes. A friend and I went today just to look around. Didn't even need a one day pass. Very nice place. I've heard they treat their people wayyy better than Sam's Club. I'll probably join.


Fri, Jun 29, 2012 : 7:12 p.m.

And you can buy the wine or prescription without a membership. If you find other stuff to buy, you'll need to join. Costco also offers a satisfaction guarantee, so if you join and don't feel it's worth it, you can get your membership refunded in full.


Fri, Jun 29, 2012 : 7:07 p.m.

Yes. Just say you want to: - get a prescription filled. - buy wine Either allows you admittance by law.


Fri, Jun 29, 2012 : 6:44 p.m.

I don't know about Costco but at Sam's club you can get a one day pass but you cannot buy anything unless you join. I figure since it is grand opening, you ought to go in for free!!