Costco’s opening in Surprise was long-time coming

When you want something bad enough, sometimes driving to another state to get it is worth it.

That was the thinking of Las Vegas-resident Steve Jones, who had been eying a golf cart caddy guided by GPS that follows golfers around the course and carries the clubs.

He wanted it so bad, in fact, he and two friends decided to drive four hours to Surprise to get one after a Costco worker in Vegas told him that’s where he had to go.

“That’s a Christmas present to myself,” Mr. Jones said. “You literally don’t have to push [anything].”

The trio was among hundreds of shoppers who showed up early Sept. 24 for the grand opening of the Costco in Surprise on the southwest corner of Waddell Road and Sarival Avenue.

The men decided to make the trip the night before the store opened, and even stole a few hours of sleep where they could. One took a nap on a flatbed cart in front of the store as workers put on the finishing touches inside.

“This is an amazing lounger,” Mr. Jones joked. “They could sell these. It’s orthopedic.”

As soon as the doors opened a half-hour earlier than planned, Mr. Jones raced right for the golf caddy. Luckily for him, the store had five.

Within minutes he was through the checkout line with his new toy — along with a few Clorox wipes, which are important in an era of COVID-19.

The three men had such a good time they plan to drive to Meridian, Idaho, in mid-October for another Costco opening.

The joy the men felt was apparent in the crowd that wrapped around the building in the hours before it was set to open.

Goodyear resident Julie Garcia said she wanted to be part of that “excitement,” so she took the day off work from her homeowners association management job and showed up at 2:30 a.m.

Only she wasn’t sure she was supposed to be there because nobody was waiting already.

“I was thinking they were going to call the cops on me when I pulled up and there was no one else here,” she joked. “I thought there’d be some people spending the night.”

Ms. Garcia and hundreds others didn’t seem to mind the requirements to wear masks and adhere to social distancing guidelines. Despite COVID-19 concerns, personal safety didn’t seem to be on the minds of some.

“I’m not worried,” said Darlene DeMattei, who waited a little more than an hour with Cheryl Maeder, both residents of Happy Trails. “Everybody is wearing masks.”

Ms. Maeder called it fun to be at a grand opening.

“I just want to see what they have,” she said. “Everything is going to be new. Not every store has the same stuff.”

Ms. DeMattei said she’ll be happy to not have to make the longer drive to the Arrowhead Costco even though her granddaughter recently began working there.

“Going all the way to Arrowhead and the other one [in Avondale] is terrible,” Ms. DeMattei said.

Both women said they buy their phones and eyeglasses exclusively at Costco.

It took Anna Demarbiex “eight or nine minutes,” she said, to drive from her Goodyear home to the new store.

Ms. Demarbiex and her son were on the prowl for a 75-inch Samsung TV, which they said was sold out at the Avondale Costco.

“They might have something other Costcos might not have like seasonal stuff,” Ms. Demarbiex said.

Sun City resident Terry Linkous arrived at 6:45 a.m., about 45 minutes before doors opened. He said he wanted to go “just for the excitement of it.”

“It’s fun to see everything stacked to the hilt,” Mr. Linkous said. “Everybody was really friendly in there and said hello.”

He said he’ll take pride driving by the store in the future knowing he was one of the first customers inside.

So will Ariel Nieves, who arrived at a quarter before 4 in the morning.

“I just wanted to be part of the fun,” Mr. Nieves said.

He said he stops by a Costco everywhere he travels, including other states. Now, he has only a nine-minute drive, not like the 30- to 45-minute drives he experienced before.

“Costco provides value, and there’s always something new to come and see,” Mr. Nieves said.

Long-time coming
Surprise residents have been aching for Costco for years, even though another shopping club store, Sam’s Club, has been in Surprise for a decade.

Costco has been among the top of residents’ wish list since the city began conducting retail surveys a few years ago. It was No. 1 in 2015 and 2017 but was taken out of the 2019 survey because the city was aware Costco was already desired.

Mayor Skip Hall and store general manager Jennifer Welker cut the entrance ribbon at 7:30 a.m., and the store allowed customers in a half-hour earlier than planned.

That’s partly because the line of people waiting stretched into the morning sun all the way around the building.

“This is long-awaited and greatly anticipated,” a masked, but clearly smiling Mr. Hall said as shoppers poured into the entrance.

Community Development Director Jeanine Jerkovic and her staff kept the pressure on Costco for years to consider Surprise. They went so far as to throw Costco virtual birthday parties every year, complete with a cake from Costco.

“Their tenacity worked,” Ms. Welker said with a laugh.

An emotionally touched Ms. Jerkovic fought back tears as she watched the first hundred customers walk into the store.

“It’s exciting to make people feel that the city listens to them,” she said. “I’m so excited to see the community so happy.”

Ms. Jerkovic talked about the outreach her team did to remind Costco Surprise is a growing, thriving market.

“Our community has changed so much,” Ms. Jerkovic said. “We were only about 30,000 people in 2000. So if you touched our community five years ago, you’re not touching the same community. It was really important to make sure that they had a fresh image of who we are, and that we made sense.”

Ms. Jerkovic said Costco’s arrival is ready to spark a series of developments in the area she said will make it a “shopping destination for the northwest Valley.” She said Surprise expects to draw in more business from residents in Buckeye, Wickenburg and north Peoria as the developments come.

“We’re working on a number of entertainment destination amenities and additional restaurants and shopping,” Ms. Jerkovic said.

Mr. Hall said Costco’s opening is symbolic of the growth of the entire Prasada area that’s about to come.

Whataburger and Starbucks are likely tenants next to Costco, and other unannounced projects are in the works.

“There’s already letters of intent and all kinds of stuff going on around Costco right now,” Mr. Hall said. “This is what you’d call an anchor. We’re excited about all the multiple effects this store is going to have economic development-wise.”

Ms. Welker said Costco sees “extreme growth potential in this community.”

“Now is a good time,” Ms. Welker said. “Surprise has growth that is established. We just love our communities that we come into. Everybody is so embracing and phenomenal.”

Employment hub
Between 280 and 300 employees will be working at the Surprise store — a good number of them comprised of workers at the Christown Mall Costco that closed a week prior.

Ms. Welker, who was that store’s general manager for 5-1/2 years, hired 53 seasonal workers mostly from Surprise, and she said some employees from the Phoenix store now reside in Surprise to be closer to work.

“It was important for us to hire from the community,” Ms. Welker said.

The 152,000-square-foot warehouse has a parking lot that can accommodate about 800 vehicles.

The store includes a fuel station that opened Aug. 6 with 24 pumps and capacity to add eight more pumps if needed.

Other features include a tire station with four to five bays, a pharmacy, outdoor food court, bakery, optical center and a photo center.

The store can hold more than 2,000 people, but it has settled on 800 for its current capacity because of social distancing.

The greeter at the front uses a clicker to count people as they come in.

“Once we reach 800 people, it’s one in, one out,” Ms. Welker said.

The store will provide free masks for customers who don’t have one. And like the chain’s other stores, it provides wipes at the door and regularly sanitizes its carts and registers.

The times when traffic is at its busiest — likely the first few weekends, Ms. Welker said — customers will have to wait outside the building six feet apart.

While waiting, however, customers will be able to sign up for memberships outside.

“We might have some capacity issues every day,” Ms. Welker said. “It just kind of depends. We’re expecting an extremely busy weekend.”

As a desired new store, Ms. Welker said it may take a week or so for the crowds to level off.

Costco has 795 stores — 552 in U.S. and Puerto Rico — across 12 countries.

The Surprise location is the 17th in Arizona, replacing the one at Christown Mall.

Costco currently has 12 Valley locations, with the closest ones to Surprise in Glendale and Goodyear. The Glendale location at 17550 N. 79th Ave. is nearly nine miles from the Surprise City Hall. The Surprise location is about four miles from City Hall.

There’s also a location in Avondale near 99th Avenue and McDowell Road.

Lisa Tade, regional marketing manager for Costco, said the company opens between 15 and 20 stores a year.

But a new one hasn’t opened in the Phoenix area since one in Paradise Valley in 2009.

Costco has a couple of membership options. The cheapest one is $60 for the gold star level membership. For double that, a shopper can upgrade to gold star executive for 2% annual cashback and other perks.

The company is offering a special for a $20 Costco Shop Card with the purchase of executive membership. New gold star and business members will receive a $10 card.

That deal runs through Sunday, Nov. 29, by using the promo code “NEWOPEN” at

The store opens daily at 10 a.m., except Saturdays (9:30 a.m.).

On weekdays, there will also be a “senior hour,” where shoppers 60 and older can get in before the general public. That begins at 9 a.m. Mondays through Fridays.


Editor’s Note: Jason Stone can be reached at