Costco opens in Fairbanks

Customers wait outside Costco just before the store’s grand opening at 7:30 a.m. today. The first people got to the store at 6 a.m. Nov. 20, 2018. Robin Wood/News-Miner

FAIRBANKS—Black Friday came a few days early for some Fairbanks shoppers when Costco opened for business 7:30 a.m. Tuesday at 49 College Road.

A line of excited shoppers started forming just after 6 a.m., growing to more than 50 people as opening time neared at the former Sam's Club store.

The opening had special hours, but normally Costco will open at 9:45 a.m. Shoppers can expect a police presence to make sure opening week goes smooth, and Costco is footing the bill, according to Fairbanks Mayor Jim Matherly.

Matherly stated that the Fairbanks Police Department will be in the area Wednesday and Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., helping with traffic and maintaining a general presence inside the building. Matherly expects police will also assist on Saturday and Sunday.

Dave DeLany of Fairbanks was the fifth person in line Tuesday, arriving just after 6 a.m. Dressed in insulated winter pants and a flannel shirt, DeLany was prepared to wait outside, but he was early enough to secure a spot in the entryway.

"The two things that I really, really wanted to get was the pumpkin pie and rotisserie chicken — my mom asked for that," DeLany said.

Peggy and Patrick Bookey of Fairbanks didn't wait in line but got to the store just as the doors opened. They were shopping for "bare necessities you can't get in quantity and quality," Peggy Bookey said.

But she had a specific item to look for as well: "The other thing I wanted was a big tub of cream cheese."

Kathy Russo, a self-proclaimed shopaholic, realized that her original intention of not buying anything was unrealistic. "Now look at me, I had to get a second cart," she said. Luckily, Russo had a friend to help.

Russo's sentiment was shared by many customers. "I'm going to get out of here before I do any more damage," exclaimed a woman pushing a cart.

"You didn't know you needed all that stuff, did you?" a man responded.

Russo, a local property manager, said at least 10 of her tenants are Costco employees. "Our community really needs this type of store," she said.

Costco has more than 300 employees, the vast majority of them Fairbanksans.

The store's general manager, Jason Soule, said the company's strategy is for 54 percent of workers to be full-time with the remaining 46 percent to be part-time with the possibility of becoming full-time.

Soule was glad the store opened early.

"This is the exciting part. I want to sell stuff and put stuff back on shelves," he said.

Soule added that his marketing managers coordinated with product suppliers to extend deal flier coupons through Wednesday, and he hinted at Costco's plans to expand a Washington state depot, which has the potential to increase supply and decrease shipping costs to Fairbanks.

Costco fills a void left by the January closure of Sam's Club.

In another retail departure, Sears announced on Nov. 8 that its store on Airport Way, along with its stores in several other locations, will be closing early next year as part of a Chapter 11 bankruptcy the company is going through.

Contact staff writer Robin Wood at 459-7510. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMcity.