As a small crowd gathered outside the Costco store at the Westfield Wheaton shopping mall early April 10, Mark Sachs of Silver Spring stood ready to participate in the store’s grand opening.
“I wouldn’t miss it,” he said. A Costco member for 23 years, he said he has been waiting for the store’s opening since it was delayed in September.
“I’ve been standing out there for the last six months,” he quipped.
Sachs was joined by other shoppers who, at around 8 a.m., bottlenecked into the store that was previously scheduled to open in October 2012 but was delayed due to an unspecified construction issue.
Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett visited the store, as well, to mark the grand opening.
“Today’s opening is significant on several fronts,” Leggett said Wednesday in a press release. “This new Costco fills a four-year-long hole left at Westfield Mall following the closure of Hecht’s, it brings a sought-after, major retailer to the eastern part of the County and, most importantly, adds 475 new, permanent jobs to our local economy.”
Not long after it opened, the store was buzzing with exploring shoppers, who filled up their carts and consumed free samples.
Costco warehouse manager Pat Fahey said the store was expecting “thousands” of customers Wednesday.
Anna McAllister of Wheaton — who was with her husband, Grant, and three young sons — said she has shopped at several other Costco locations in the past and will now use the Wheaton location to continue their trips for groceries.
With the new location closer to their home, their Costco trips will probably be more frequent, she said.
Though they would later head to work and school, McAllister said she wanted to check out the new store with her family.
“I dragged everyone out here,” she said.
Alicia Gassler of Kensington said she made sure to pick up a particular kind of dog food that Costco sells, but also was shopping for other goods with her sister April, a fan of the store’s curry sauce and organic quinoa.
“We just said, ‘It’s probably going to be an expensive shopping day,’” Gassler said.
Derrick Addoh, a produce supervisor, said he and other employees had extra food ready in the freezer to prepare for the first day’s customers.
“It’s kind of a lot, because it’s eight o’clock,” Addoh said as he looked around the store soon after it opened. “I wasn’t expecting this.”
Susan Boyer, regional manager for Native Floral, was handing out 500 free roses to the store’s early customers.
As a manager working with about 70 Costcos, Boyer said she thought the Wheaton location was “a beautiful store.”
“Actually, this one is probably one of the nicer ones,” she said.
City Councilman George Leventhal (D-At large) of Takoma Park, who also stopped by the store Wednesday morning, said the store is “a great retail opportunity” where he plans to shop himself.
“The place was loaded with shoppers ready to spend money,” he said of the grand opening customer traffic.
Jane Shafritz of Wheaton also arrived at the store before it opened to see the ribbon-cutting ceremony, though she said she wouldn’t be able to shop that day.
The store, Shafritz said, is a major step for the area’s redevelopment plans.
“Everything’s gonna start rolling, if it hasn’t already,” she said.
Costco is currently pursuing a special exception from the county to build near the store a 16-pump gas station, which has drawn opposition from community members concerned that the station will have adverse health effects, among other consequences.