Southwest Wake News

Costco prepares for Apex opening March 16

A Costco employee arranges product displays ahead of the store’s March 16 opening.
A Costco employee arranges product displays ahead of the store’s March 16 opening.

Eight years in the making, Costco’s Apex location is set to open with a ribbon-cutting Wednesday, March 16.

The cavernous, 152,000-square-foot building is full of towering steel shelves piled high with pallets of goods, such as bottled water and laundry detergent. It also has an in-house gas station, bakery, deli, and concession stand, alongside stacks of high-end electronics and wine.

With its concrete floors and high ceilings, it resembles a hardware store more than a Target or Wal-Mart. This is the company’s 700th location and the third in the Triangle, with other locations in Raleigh and Durham.

Doors will open at 8 a.m. at 1021 Pine Plaza Drive, in Nichols Plaza, near the intersection of Laura Duncan Road and U.S. 64.

Costco requires shoppers to pay either $55 per year for a basic membership or $110 for an “executive” membership, which comes with a 2 percent discount on all products.

Barbara Zeitler, director of marketing for the Apex store, said she has been encouraging people to sign up before the Wednesday opening.

“Once we’ve opened, it’s going to be crazy,” she said.

Apex resident Amanda Thompson was at the store last week with her two young daughters signing up for her membership. The store has been accepting new memberships on-site since early February.

“We usually go to Sam’s Club about once a month, but now this is so close to our house, we figured we’d give this a try,” Thompson said. “The produce here is better, too, or that’s what I’ve heard.”

The bulk retailer is seen as a socially responsible, no-frills alternative to other big-box stores, according to media reports, thanks to its employee salaries and prescription prices.

The store has been responsible for plenty of buzz among Apex residents, but General Manager Chris Manzo said it’s been a major event within the company as well.

“When we open up a new building, we open hiring up to employees in the company first, and we had about 300 transfer requests,” he said. “That’s way above average. My buddy up in Syracuse, he only had 30. I had to turn down 200 current employees.”

Manzo said he also received more than 3,000 outside applications and ended up making about 80 new hires, a rate of about 2.6 percent.

Costco employee Travis Hunt transferred to Apex from Austin, Texas, another fast-growing city. He said he and his wife had just purchased their first house in the area.

“Half the store seems like it’s from Texas or New York,” he said. “My wife and I, we’re getting ready to start a family, and we both love it here.”

Manzo praised Apex for the role it played in making the new location possible.

“Some places you go, they fight like hell to keep retailers out,” he said. “The cool thing is that they want us here.”

The gas station at Costco opened in late January. Nichols Plaza eventually will include stores that are expected to open this summer, including Chipotle, McAllister’s Deli, Ruckus Pizza and Pasta, Mattress Firm, Great Clips, Harris Nails and T-Mobile.

Gargan: 919-460-2604; @hgargan