SALT LAKE CITY — When customers enter the new Costco on 300 West here they'll now have a new item to carry as they push their shopping carts down the expanded aisles: a map.
Welcome to the largest Costco in the world, with aisle after aisle of merchandise on huge pallets stacked nearly to the ceiling, and now a new business center to make this the most supersized Costco and what the company hopes is a destination for those who need warehouse-size orders.
"We decided to add a business center and combined it with a (traditional consumer) warehouse for a hybrid," said general manager Craig Jamieson. "Currently, we're the largest Costco on the planet."
Prior to this newly expanded location, the Salt Lake store had generally operated as any other of the company's locations. Originally opened in 1994, the Salt Lake store was about 165,000 square feet in total space, but the company launched a new concept by adding 70,000 square feet of new space in its business center, claiming the lot directly north of the building, located at 1818 S. 300 West.
The first-of-its-kind, hybrid business center-consumer warehouse now measures a whopping 235,000 square feet. Put in perspective, it would take just over 800 steps to travel the estimated one-third of a mile to walk the perimeter loop of the entire store — burning about 32 calories.
The new space includes 2,700 additional items, including enormous pallets of soft drinks, nonperishables, as well as new freezers with whole lambs and whole roasting pigs. Also, there are three new coolers, each measuring 3,000 square feet, with everything from eggs to produce to meats and several varieties of cheese.
The new space is geared specifically for commercial and institutional customers like coffee shops, schools and universities, among others.
"The focus is on convenience stores, offices (and) restaurants," he said. "We also added delivery as part of that process."
He also said that the new business center opens at 7 a.m. to accommodate its business-oriented member base. Other members are allowed to shop during normal operating hours. The store also added about 50 new employees, he said.
According to the Costco website, the company was founded as Price Club in 1976 and opened its first location in a converted airplane hangar in San Diego, California. After a merger, the company opened its first Costco warehouse in Seattle in 1983.
Headquartered in Issaquah, Washington, today the company is the second-largest retailer in the world and the largest membership warehouse club chain in the United States, with more than 670 warehouse stores worldwide generating revenue in excess of $112 billion last year.
The typical Costco warehouse store measures about 148,000 square feet on average, Jamieson said. But the new hybrid store is almost 50 percent larger and could be a test model for future potential expansion in other similar markets, he said.
Currently, the company operates 11 other business centers around the country, with more planned, he said.
Jamieson said the reason Salt Lake City was chosen to launch the hybrid concept was because the company was unsure if the local market would support a stand-alone business center, so they decided to try combining the two models.
The map is now included "to get everybody acclimated to the new building,” he said.
Across the country, the company is planning to expand the business center concept “very rapidly,” Jamieson said. It is an important, growing segment of their business, he said.
While the new business center began serving members earlier this month, the company is still completing the build-out of the new space. The offical grand re-opening is scheduled for Nov. 12.