A February opening is planned
Blame the rainfall, but Costco Wholesale fans will have to enjoy the anticipation a bit longer.
The membership-only warehouse giant is expected to open the doors to the Costco experience in Wesley Chapel in early February.
Company officials had hoped for a November opening, but this summer’s rainfall slowed down construction by a few weeks. And, Costco doesn’t open stores in December and January, choosing through the holidays to focus on sales and customer service at existing stores.
However, by November, Costco will begin hiring for about 275 positions. Some slots will be filled with Costco employees transferring from other stores, but most will be new hires, said Hector Mencia, Costco’s general manager in Clearwater.
“We are very excited to come into this area,” said Mencia, who spoke at the Aug. 25 economic briefing luncheon sponsored by The Greater Wesley Chapel Chamber of Commerce. “It’s going to be a great location.”
Costco also will be opening a store in Citrus Park in Tampa about the same time. These are the first stores in the Tampa Bay area in about 15 years.
“It shows that the economic status over here is going very well,” said Mencia. “We’ve been trying to get in here for quite a bit in this market.”
Rosina Yeo will be the store’s general manager. She currently is assistant warehouse manager for Costco in Jacksonville.
The 184,000-square-foot warehouse is under construction in front of Tampa Premium Outlets, off State Road 56.
“It will have all the bells and whistles on it,” Mencia said.
Mencia began working at Costco while in college in 1989.
It’s a great place to work and has a low turnover rate among employees, he said.
Entry-level pay for hourly wage earners starts at $13 an hour, rising to $22 an hour on average over time. After six months, employees are eligible for benefits.
Mencia said the opening of an Indiana store attracted about 22,000 applicants.
By November, a storefront will be opened where people can file applications in person.
Memberships to Costco will be available about six weeks before the store’s opening date.
Mencia said on opening day about 2,000 shoppers are expected. Inside and outside the store, employees will be ready to process membership applications.
The store’s retail model is to price low and sell in very high volumes. Shoppers browse aisles filled on average with about 3,800 items, but on a regular basis about 1,500 of those items are rotated out.
“We create the treasure hunt atmosphere,” said Mencia. “They need to buy it then and not wait a week. It will be gone by then.”
In other words, as comedian Rosie O’ Donnell explained in a Costco video, you can walk in with a list but leave with a trampoline and a case of Corn Nuts.
Costco sells nearly everything: wine, clothes, groceries, gas, jewelry, electronics, tires, glasses, hearing aids, vacation packages, cars, home improvement services, hardware, pharmaceuticals, and since 1985, $1.50 hot dogs.
In fiscal year 2015, Costco sold 55 million wieners in a bun. Worldwide shoppers also bought $4.1 billion in produce; $4.2 billion in USDA inspected prime beef; and $888 million in pastries and breads from its bakeries.
Mencia said Costco has about 76.4 million Costco cardholders worldwide.
The wholesale warehouse club is the largest retailer in the world, behind Walmart.
But, its global reach doesn’t keep Costco from connecting locally with area businesses and the community.
Costco plans to join the Wesley Chapel chamber. And, chamber members are ready to pitch in and help as the company prepares for its opening.
“We’ll do anything we can to welcome them with a hug,” said Hope Allen, the chamber’s executive director. “It’s refreshing to hear that they are going to join the local business community, and they understand the importance of chambers.”
Mencia said Costco does a lot of outreach “behind the scenes” locally and worldwide.
For instance, bakery items, including bread, have short shelf lives in order to sell only the freshest. But, these and other food items not sold are donated.
“We give them to nonprofit organizations,” he said. “They pick it up every day.”
The company also donates school backpacks to area schools annually and, in May, collects donations for the Children’s Miracle Network.
About 2.5 million local farmers in Africa supply Costco with cashews. The farms typically are smaller than 2 acres and are family operated.
Costco also supports farmers’ training, donates school kits and provides AIDS awareness education.
In Mexico, a similar program employs fishermen, and in Mozambique, farmers supply vanilla.
“I’m very proud of what we do,” Mencia said.
Published August 31, 2016