Pre-dawn Wednesday saw dozens of shoppers waiting in the cold for the opening of Butler County’s first Costco with some there as early as 4:30 a.m.
The 161,000 square feet Costco in Liberty Twp. then saw hundreds flow in once the doors opened at 7:45 a.m. after area business and government officials held a brief ribbon-cutting ceremony in the store’s enclosed atrium area.
Store staffers then opened giant garage doors at the store’s main entrance and it was the starting gun for hundreds more eager shoppers to bolt from their heated cars in the full parking lot to be among the first in the region’s newest and largest Costco.
Vanessa Niehaus from West Chester Twp. was the third in line and was all smiles at the prospect of shopping at the new store.
“I am just so excited and I think this is great for the West Chester area. I love shopping at Costco. It’s a fun place,” said Niehaus, who staked her place outside in line at 5:40 a.m.
Fellow early-bird shopper Nicola Moorer of West Chester got up early – joined by her young granddaughter - and said the store opening was both retail fun and an exciting event.
The opening followed Tuesday’s closing of the next closest Costco in northern Hamilton County’s Springdale.
“They closed the (Springdale) location where I normally go but this is only seven minutes from my house so I had to be here for the grand opening,” said Moorer.
“I definitely wanted to share this experience with my grand baby and I’m going to get some Christmas things and buy some food items.”
Shelby Perez, general manager of the store, has opened four other Costcos around the country but said Wednesday’s opening was one of the smoothest and best attended.
Perez estimated more than 2,000 shoppers had already come through the doors by noon with no end in sight for the steady flow.
“We’re right about where we thought we would be. It’s very exciting and one of the smoothest ones I’ve done,” she said, adding there were no first-day problems in the store, which about 10% larger than the former Springdale store.
The opening has ramifications far beyond shoppers filling their carts with goods.
The store is the anchor for the $139 million, mixed-use Freedom Point project now taking shape around it at the border of Liberty and West Chester townships near the Liberty Way and Interstate 75 exchange.
The Costco grounds also includes a store-operated, 12-pump, 24 hose gas station operating across the store’s large parking lot.
The surrounding 88-acre mixed-use development, which is the second most expensive in Liberty Twp. history after the nearby Liberty Center, also includes a recently opened and new SR 129 highway interchange connector with Interstate 75.
The finished Freedom Pointe development will eventually include restaurants, 402 upscale apartments, other retail businesses, medical and other professional offices and a hotel.
“With 153,000 vehicles a day traveling on I-75 through Liberty and West Chester townships, this location will be a regional draw and the economic impact will be a game changer for Liberty,” Joe Hinson, president and CEO of the West Chester and Liberty Chamber Alliance, told the Journal-News.
“Costco is the catalyst for future business opportunities at Freedom Pointe and beyond,” Hinson said.
Liberty Twp. Trustee Tom Farrell said “we’re humbled and honored to have a Costco in Liberty, especially since it is the first one in Butler County.”
“It’s a huge asset for our area and we’re very excited to have them.”
Costco shoppers purchase a membership to shop, though first-time shoppers can enter the store, choose their items and then pay for the annual fee at the register when checking out, said Perez.
Annual membership costs range from $60 for a basic store access to a yearly $120 “executive membership” for shoppers.