PHARR — Costco President Craig Jelinek had a big smile on his face and a hefty stack of dollar bills in his hand Wednesday night as employees and admirers of Pharr’s newest business buzzed around him, guessing how much money the store would make its first day.
“Anybody that wants to puts a dollar in and writes the opening sales for day one, and whoever gets it right wins the jackpot,” Jelinek said. “It also gives (me) a chance to meet all the employees.”
Jelinek, who estimated he’s attended openings for some 550 Costco stores, called the community excitement and turnout especially high here.
Several thousand people turned out to see the long-awaited store at 1501 W. Kelly Ave. for a reception for family and friends of employees and others. Carts could barely navigate through the 151,000-square-foot space after it opened to shoppers with a ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday morning.
“We’re twice as busy as the last store that opened, and that set the record,” said Greg Brenner, general manager for the store.
Exact membership numbers were unavailable, but Brenner said several thousand have signed up at the location so far.
Pharr leaders are hoping that traffic will make up for generous incentives they provided to Costco after several attempts to draw it to the city. The city agreed to pay the store $11 million, including $6.5 million to help purchase the property, $1.5 million for construction and $3 million in incentives after opening.
The location is just a half-mile from another membership warehouse, the Sam’s Club at 1400 E. Jackson Ave. in McAllen, and drew inevitable comparisons from locals.
“We just wanted to see and compare prices,” said Weslaco resident Alma Hernandez, 39, who uses warehouse stores to stock up on household items for her five children, ranging in age from 6 months to 21 years.
Hernandez was one of several shoppers who said they intended to drop Sam’s memberships in favor of Costco.
Mercedes residents Bob and Sam Schmitt said they had a high regard for Costco’s product quality.
“We’re people who look at labels,” Bob Schmitt said. “We like to buy USA items.”
The store, with skylights and natural light, feels little like a warehouse. It includes fresh food in the deli, bakery and meat sections, as well as its traditional bulk household items. It features inexpensive wine and jewelry alongside an $890 bottle of Spanish reserve wine and $170,000 diamond engagement ring.
Like other Costcos, the Pharr location has done its best to fit into the region.
“The product mix is a little better here,” Jelinek said. “We have items like tripe and tongue that we don’t have in other markets.”
Kim Duran, regional bakery supervisor, said employees had spent much time visiting local bakeries and seeing what Valley residents were purchasing. The results were Costco creating its own recipes of guava muffins, mantecadas and other items.
Robert Ethiar, 62, a Weslaco Winter Texan from Ontario, said he had shopped at Costcos in Canada, so he enjoyed the opportunity to check out one in the U.S.
“We came out because it’s the grand opening,” he said. “There’s a lot of stuff. We haven’t had time to go through the whole store, but we’ll be back.”
Elizabeth Findell covers Pharr, San Juan, Alamo, the Mid-Valley and general assignments for The Monitor. She can be reached at email@example.com and (956) 683-4428.
Follow Elizabeth Findell on Twitter: @efindell
Basic membership (two household members)
Gold Star- $55
Includes extra savings and 2 percent reward on purchases.
Advantage Plus- $100
Includes early hours and extra savings.
Kirkland, 2 gallons- $5.39 (2.70 per gallon)
Member’s Mark, 1 gallon- $2.98
Silk organic vanilla soymilk (3 half-gallon cartons)
$2.99 per pound
$3.18 per pound
20 pound bag- $6.99 (35 cents per pound)
15 pound bag- $6.98 (47 cents per pound)
White bakery sheet cake
La Vaquita queso fresco (5 pounds)
Peggy’s Premier, 6 pounds- $8.99 ($1.50 per pound)
Seapoint Farms, 4 pounds- $6.98 ($1.75 per pound)
Bottled water (16.9-ounce bottles)
Kirkland, 35- $3.59 (10 cents per bottle)
Nestle, 32- $3.98 (12 cents per bottle)
Batteries (Pack of 48 AAs)
Member’s Mark- $13.48
Store brand paper towels (12 rolls)
Member’s Mark- $15.98
Bounty paper towels (12 jumbo rolls)
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Simply Right, 228- $35.38 (16 cents per diaper)
Huggies diapers (size 2)
258- $38.98 (15 cents per diaper)
184- $38.98 (21 cents per diaper)
Plastic grocery store bags (2,000)
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Brand-name jeans (Mens)
Kut from Kloth- $44.99
Big Star- $66.98
Beer (24 bottles)
Bud Light- $19.99
Shiner Bock- $24.95
Mexican Variety Pack- $21.95
Bud Light- $16.96
Shiner Bock- $24.96
Mexican Variety Pack- $21.96
La Crema Chardonnay- $14.59
Cheap: Frontera Cabernet/Merlot- $6.99
Expensive: Vega Sicilia Unico Gran Reserva (1.5 liters)- $899.99
Wider variety of higher end wines. Point system ranks wines from “classic” and “outstanding” to “undrinkable.”
La Crema Chardonnay- $15.98
Cheap: Beringer Cabernet- $4.97
Expensive: Heitz Cellars Cabernet- $39.78
Less expensive brands of wine in general. Colored panels indicate the flavors, pronunciation and common food pairings of common types of wine.
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$15 per tire
Regular gas on Thursday
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