The lineups were out the door for the official opening of the Waterloo Costco Wholesale store Tuesday morning.
Greeted by local dignitaries and store employees, hundreds of shoppers came to check out the new 155,000 square-foot store located at 930 Erb St. W., Waterloo.
The new store features a wide variety of specialty departments including an on site bakery, fresh meat and produce and services such as an optical centre, pharmacy and its own gas station. But it is the more than the 4,000 items for sale at warehouse prices that draw in customers who have to pay an annual membership fee, says the company.
Pierre Riel, senior vice-president and general manager of eastern Canada for the chain that now has 92 stores across Canada, said they knew there was a pent-up demand for another location in Waterloo Region. The Kitchener Costco location has been one of the chain’s top stores since it opened it 1991.
“Without you, we’re not here,” he told the crowd of shoppers gathered. “So please come back, not just this morning.”
The first customer in the store was Betty Tucker, who came all the way from Woodstock to check out the new store and deals available that day.
She said she’s been a longtime Costco customer and appreciated the company’s philosophy, including its generous return policies.
“We came to check it out a week ago and one of the guys told us there were door crasher specials,” said Tucker. “I like their policy that you can bring back something if you’re not happy with it.
“Other stores don’t take everything back, but here they take it back and they don’t even question you. They’re really nice.”
Waterloo Mayor Dave Jaworsky acknowledged the work needed to get the infrastructure ready to support the new store, including two new roundabouts on Erb Street and the expansion of the roundabout at Ira Needles Boulevard. He said a true partnership between the city, the region, the developers and Costco made it happened.
“There are going to be a lot of people coming to Costco today and we wanted to make sure we got the roads right,” said Jaworsky.
That caused almost a year delay in opening the store as Costco and local government officials worked to make sure traffic capacity was in place to service the new location.
Jaworsky said the store’s addition to the west side of the city will be a boost for the local economy.
“The arrival of Costco in our city is just another example of how business continues to have confidence in Waterloo and our economy,” said Jaworsky. “The opening of this Costco Wholesale is a considerable investment, and adds more than 200 new jobs to our community.”
Waterloo MPP Catherine Fife was also on hand and acknowledged Costco’s history of being a progressive employer.
“They treat their employees well, they pay their employees well and you see little turnover because of that,” said Fife. “From my perspective, I value the fact that you’re a progressive employer and I’m confident that you’ve come to the right place.”
Ken Shantz, the general manager of the new warehouse and a longtime resident of the community, said they have a total of 265 permanent employees, with another 50 people in back up roles with the busy holiday retail season fast approaching. “Depending on the sales volume, we’ll continue to add staff as the business grows,” he said.
The company held a four-day job fair to fill those positions, and had more than 1,000 people apply. “I think Costco was ranked No. 2 behind Apple as one of the best places to work,” said Shantz.
Ron Damiani, a spokesman for the Costco, said people have been bugging the chain for years about when they might open a second location in Waterloo Region.
“We’ve been here for years and there’s been tremendous pent-up demand for a new place,” he said. “And the timing was good.”
Diamiani said Costco usually likes to lead the market, but in this case is coming into a robust retail space on the west side of the city.
Down the road there is more than one-million square feet of retail space at the Boardwalk development, and Canadian Tire anchors a retail development that spans the corners of Erb Street and Ira Needles Boulevard.
Costco’s difficulty came in securing enough land for a new expansion, as well as guarding their plans so they would have to pay an added premium for the property because of their reputation.
“But we’re thrilled to be out here and we expect this location to get off to a rocking start because the Kitchener location is probably one of the busiest ones we have in the country,” said Damiani.
“That one is a very successful location, and this one is about 40,000 square-feet bigger than the other one, so it’s a huge difference in terms of size.
“We have a little bit more merchandize, and the fresh produce and meat areas are bigger. Overall there are more rows and more cashiers, and in a bigger area. There are a lot of things different than the Kitchener location.”
Source: Waterloo Chronicle