Costco members tired of fighting the crowds at St. Johns Town Center now have an alternative.
The membership warehouse chain opens its second Jacksonville location at 8 a.m. today on the Westside at 8000 Parramore Road. That’s off Interstate 295 and south of Collins Road across from Walmart Supercenter.
“It’s been difficult, we’ve been waiting a long time,” said Costco Wholesale Southeast Regional Marketing Manager Kelly Frasure.
The deal to buy the site followed years of negotiations among Costco, Harmony Farms, the city and the Jacksonville Transportation Authority. Parramore Road was built to connect Collins Road with Youngerman Circle as part of the deal.
Costco, based in Issaquah, Washington, paid $3.44 million for the property in June. Construction costs were $12.6 million.
The store had been planned to open in the fall, but was delayed by Hurricane Irma.
“We probably could have done it, but waiting was the right thing to do,” Frasure said.
Frasure said sales are anticipated to decline at the Town Center store, which was at capacity. She said of all the Costco stores in the Southeast region, the Town Center store had the most members and business.
She said the area around the new Costco has about 16,000 members and it should take the pressure off the original location.
The store will be managed by Jason Zook, who was manager of the Town Center store and worked there for 13 years. Zook said the biggest differences between the stores is accessibility, just off the Interstate, and the inclusion of a gas station.
The 150,000-square-foot store is only about 2,000 square feet larger than the Town Center store, but has been arranged to give shoppers more space to maneuver.
Parking also can be an issue at the Town Center store. It opened in 2000 and has since been surrounded by The Markets at Town Center.
Zook said the new store has 684 parking spaces, 30 fewer than the East Jacksonville store. However, that location is surrounded by other shops and restaurants whose customers use Costco spaces, which is not a factor at the new store.
Another difference from the Town Center store is how services are arranged. The optical department, optometrist, hearing aid center and pharmacy are together in the southwest corner.
The new store also has an area to promote Costco items sold online. Customers can also buy jewelry, computers and purses online and have them shipped to the store for pickup instead of delivered to their home.
About 215 people work at the store, with about 100 moved from the Town Center location. Frasure said some workers also transferred from as far away as the Seattle area, New Jersey and Puerto Rico.
The store will open at 8 a.m. today for the grand opening. It will then resume normal hours of 10 a.m.-8:30 p.m. Monday-Friday, 9:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday. Membership prices start at $60 per year.
The store is the 26th in Florida, the 519th in the U.S. and the 747th worldwide.
As part of the grand opening, Costco President and CEO Craig Jelinek planned to visit the store Wednesday evening.
Frasure said Costco has a store-opening tradition of employees writing their name and guessing the store’s first-day sales on a $1 bill, then handing it to the CEO when they meet him.
“It’s an ice breaker,” Frasure said. “Craig goes around shaking hands and reaching out for the dollar bills.”
Whomever comes the closest wins the cash.