A sea of Elk Grove shoppers made Thursday morning look like a more jovial, less frantic version of Black Friday.
About 200 eager customers, employees, city officials and discount gas enthusiasts turned out bright and early to the corner of Elk Grove Boulevard and Bruceville Road around 7 a.m., a full hour ahead of the official opening time for a brand new Costco.
After a ribbon-cutting ceremony and a few words from Mayor Steve Ly, celebrating the new store and its contribution to economic growth for the city, a crowd of customers that had formed a line almost around the corner of the building filed in steadily. The big warehouse-garage doors opened early, around 7:30 a.m.
A pair of greeters checked everybody’s membership cards. Most people seemed to be wearing genuine smiles, and the whole line made its way inside in under 10 minutes.
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Before the ribbon-cutting, some parents took photos of their children posing by the storefront. Many of those who arrived the earliest were Costco-lovers living in Elk Grove, celebrating the long-awaited arrival of a closer option than existing stores.
A man named Mike, who was halfway through the entry line, said he lives three miles away. He said he would previously shop at the south Sacramento Costco, which is about a 15-minute drive from the new location.
“Now I can come here,” he said.
For some shoppers, it was just a normal morning. Inside the store as of 8 a.m., things proceeded as one might expect at any Costco: Jumbo-sized bags of bulk foods, on-sale electronics and the aforementioned samples.
“I thought it would be very, very (busy), but it’s good,” Anna Romea said on her way out. “I usually go to the south (Sacramento Costco), but I’m coming here now.”
Romea had a cart of food and said she was in a hurry. Others were less rushed and lingered a bit.
For a few, the trip to the new store on its grand opening served a more ceremonial role than a functional one. Some shoppers exited the bulk wholesale store with just an item or two. One of the first people out of the store was a man who’d bought a small USB speaker. Not far behind him, another man had three bottles of champagne.
A few others were empty-handed other than a small paper cup, presumably still snacking on their free samples.
More than 100 full-time and 100 part-time workers are employed at the new Elk Grove spot, Ly said. At 150,000 square feet, the warehouse store is larger than U.S. chain’s average store size of 144,500 square feet, according to an online profile.
The store boasts a sprawling parking lot. Costco will establish The Ridge Shopping Center, a 14-building complex still in the early stages of construction aside from the warehouse store and its gas station.
Always a big draw, the location offers a 24-pump island near the corner of the shopping center. Costco’s gas started as inexpensive as $3.09 a gallon Thursday morning; other stations on Elk Grove Boulevard, closer to Highway 99, were selling gas for $3.59 and $3.79.
Most of the morning’s chaos happened in the parking lot around 8 a.m., as early-bird shoppers started to depart while others showed up around the official opening time.
The lot is confusing in places. Of its two four-way intersections closest to the Elk Grove Boulevard entry point, one is controlled in just one direction by stop signs, and the other is not controlled at all. Those intersections connect the main lot and the gas station. Beeping horns and at least one near miss ensued.
Additionally, the new Costco at a major intersection is sure to lead to traffic delays, as the city advised in a news release earlier this week. Traffic signal timing in the area may be adjusted to cope with the extra congestion, according to Elk Grove Public Works.
“Today’s opening marks the start of many new opportunities for our city and its residents,” Ly said.