South San Francisco, CA May 17, 2017
A COSTCO Business Center will soon take up residence in the old Levitz building at 900 Dubuque Ave off of Oyster Point Blvd as major renovations are currently taking place. We already have two COSTCO’s in our city (1600 El Camino Real and 451 S Airport Blvd) and some neighbors have questioned why a third store of the same name is needed.
Angelique Presidente shared this blog ‘The Costco Connoisseur: Have you been to a business center‘ which identifies how the COSTCO Business Center is different from the better known COSTCO Wholesale stores that already call South City home. Although the information shared was from August 2015 it offers a good look at what we might find in this new business center.
A customer commented on this blog ‘Worth noting Costco is always tweaking and adjusting the Business Center stores. So even if you try one and don’t like it, try it again in a few months.’ so that is something useful to keep in mind as we try this new business.
TUESDAY, AUGUST 11, 2015
Have you been to a Costco Business Center?
A Costco what? Costco Business Centers are a different kind of Costco warehouse, but they are open to all Costco members – you don’t have to have a business membership. Business Centers carry some similar products that regular Costco warehouses carry, however the majority of their products are aimed at small business owners like those who operate restaurants, food trucks, and convenience stores. Costco Business Centers also have a much larger variety of office supplies, janitorial supplies and even office furniture- all things that are essential to to the operation of just about any business. According to the Costco Business Center magazine Let’s Talk Business, 70% of the food stocked in Business Centers is not available at traditional Costco warehouses.
1 in the Chicago area (as of April 2015!)
Two things struck me immediately when I arrived – the logo on the building is slightly different (so from afar you can tell its a Business Center not a regular warehouse) and the orange flatbed carts at Business Centers are a bit different too- they have handy baskets attached to keep track of smaller items.
Aside from those two differences, the setup is almost exactly the same as a regular warehouse- you show your Costco membership to enter on one side and you show your receipt to exit on the other side.
Walking inside it almost looks like any other warehouse except instead of being greeted by the big electronics department with dozens of TVs, you’re met with an assortment of different items ranging from folding tables & chairs and table cloths, custodial equipment and office furniture.
The first few aisles I went down were an expanded selection of office supplies, much more than what you would usually find at a regular Costco warehouse. For instance, in addition to the larger selection of pens, pencils, post-it notes and various other office paper products, the Business Centers also have cash registers and rolls of register/receipt paper, money counters, time clocks and time cards, security systems, toner cartridges for laser printers & copiers and even laminating machines.
Business Centers also have kiosks showing off items you can special order like office furniture, hospitality TVs, and custodial equipment like commercial paper towel dispensers.
The next set of aisles I went down were all about cooking and baking gear – mostly items you would buy for a restaurant, bakery or catering business – but I did find several things that anyone could use in their own home kitchen: gadgets and cooks tools like spatulas, cutting boards, tongs, pepper mills, knives and mandolin slicers. There were also dozens of different sized chafing dishes with matching lids & stands and cases of canned sterno fuel. There were NSF rated cookware and bakeware, a selection of chefs uniforms in various sizes and colors, bar mops, commercial grade oven mitts, commercial sized food storage containers, NSF rated plates, bowls, cups & glassware and a variety of mixing and serving bowls. The best part- all of these items were at unbelievably low Costco prices!
I also saw an assortment of commercial grade appliances and commercial kitchen equipment like counter top deep friers, hot plates, commercial grade coffee makers & panini presses and the largest immersion stick blender I have ever seen!
For use in my own home I couldn’t resist picking up the follow items: a digital thermometer, a set of metal measuring cups, a set of metal measuring spoons, a set of flexible cutting mats, a mesh strainer, and a pastry brush. (I ALMOST bought a case of glass goblets that I would have had to mail home from L.A. but the more I thought about it, I decided I should wait until AFTER our remodel is complete before I start stocking the new kitchen…)
Anyway, as I moved further down the aisles I found every kind of takeout container, disposable plate, cup, cutlery and paper good you could ever imagine! Cups and lids for coffee and other hot beverages, cups, lids & straws for fountain drinks, chopsticks, to-go plastic utensils, styrofoam & cardboard take out containers- they even have pizza boxes and popcorn bags!
(On a later outing I made it down to the San Diego Business Center where I found dozens of different kinds of shopping bags in a variety of sizes, from small paper lunch sacks, to larger paper grocery bags – with and without handles – and plastic grocery bags in different sizes & colors.)
Still at the Hawthorne Business Center, I discovered some items that would be excellent for displaying and serving food like a two tiered display case, platters & pitchers, refillable condiment bottles and of course for the safe handling of food- disposable gloves.
When I finally turned my attention toward the center of the warehouse to see what the open middle area had and I actually giggled to myself at the sight before me. The entire center area was nothing but candy, snacks, and beverages that you would find at any convenient store. It was literally like being a kid in a candy store. They had boxes of chocolate bars, gum, lollipops, potato chips, cookies, nuts, jerky, pop-tarts, cereal bars protein bars, trail mix and more. I even found my all time favorite potato chips- Hawaiian Style Kettle chips- in a variety pack, and they had brands and varieties that I had never seen before at Costco!
And the beverages! Oh the variety of different beverages was unbelievable. They even had my most favorite lemonade- the Kirkland Signature Organic Lemonade- but instead of a two 3-Qt pack they had a case of 24 individual 16 oz bottles – the perfect size for vending or for lunch on the go.
They also had vegetable juices like V8 & Clamato and fruit juices in a variety of different sizes. I lost count of the different varieties of Starbucks frappuccinos, and there were dozens of different kinds of energy drinks, sodas and bottled waters in different sizes of plastic bottles, cans, and glass bottles.
Before I forged ahead into the refrigerated and freezer sections I made my way back to the right side to explore the janitorial equipment and cleaning supplies. In addition to the even larger sizes of cleaning products, most of which were commercial grade, they also sold commercial vacuum cleaners, commercial trash & recycling bins, mops & mop buckets and wet floor signs. You could even buy packs of those disposable toilet seat covers you often find in public restrooms.
Moving down the next aisle I discovered a selection of hardware and automotive items- I found pumice hand cleaner in a 2-gallon pump jug and a 5-gallon bucket of degreaser. In addition to automobile oil, there were also jugs of antifreeze/coolant, containers for holding gasoline and even a 2-pack of jumper cables. For hardware, they had duct tape, safety cones, large security mirrors, hand trucks & carts, step ladders and items you might find at a regular Costco warehouse like batteries, work gloves, shop towels, and fire extinguishers.
Heading further down the right side to the very back of the warehouse I found what would be considered hospitality supplies, things that would be perfect for daycares, small hotels, bed & breakfasts or most offices. Items like commercial fist aid kits, an assortment of diapers & wipes and feminine hygiene products, a larger variety of protective exam gloves, hand sanitizers in giant commercial size bottles and in smaller individual bottles for resale. In addition to the huge bottles of refill hand soaps, they also had variety packages of individual hand soap pumps which are perfect for the home, B&Bs or even rental properties like a beach house.
In the convenience store section, (similar to pharmacy and health & beauty section at a regular warehouse- minus the actual pharmacy of course), located at the front of the warehouse I also discovered an assortment of personal care items in travel sizes or individual, single use packaging- like OTC medications, disposal razors, condoms, tooth brushes, chap-stick- things you could resell at a convenient store or have on hand a hotel or B&B.
Finally, I turned my attention to the fresh food selection. I found fresh produce for sale by the case at even better discounts than what you would find at a traditional Costco warehouse, but of course you had to buy a massive amount. For example a 25 lb bag of red onions is only $.32 per pound, thats 50% LESS expensive than the 8 lb bag of red onions that goes for $.72 per pound at a regular Costco warehouse. And a 50 lb bag of yellow onions is only $.22 per pound versus the 10 lb bag for $.39 per pound at a regular warehouse. If you can go through that many onions before they go bad then by all means shop for onions and other fresh produce at Costco Business Centers!
The refrigerated section was so large it was like walking into an enormous refrigerator, and Costco even provides shoppers with jackets for customers comfort. The bright neon jackets are easy to spot and allow you to take your time while shopping in the refrigerated and freezer sections (which again are massive).
Most of the fresh food is sold in such quantities that it would only make sense for restaurants, caterers, food trucks, churches or other businesses in the food service industry. I did however spot a few smaller items that were sold in relatively smaller quantities which makes them great choices for any family: Lunchables, fruit & yogurt packs, hummus & pretzel packs, and individual pre-made salad bowls.
I saw more kinds of meat sold in the Costco Business Centers that I think I have ever seen in a single store that wasn’t a butcher shop. They had 40 lb boxes of boneless skinless chicken breasts, 60 lb boxes of ground beef, 74 lb boxes of steaks and even whole lamb carcasses!
Pre-washed & pre-cut produce was also available, ready to toss into recipes or salads, and trays of stuffed peppers and 5 lb bags of cubed cheese were just waiting for caterers to arrange them on platters and serve them to hungry guests.
In the freezer section there were about a dozen varieties of individually wrapped burritos and pre-made sandwiches- perfect for re-sale, and there were giant desserts with instructions on how to cut & serve an individual piece or the whole dessert for an entire crowd. There were bags of pre-made soups waiting to be reheated and served, giant bags of frozen vegetables and cases of frozen meats.
Leaving the freezer section and returning the borrowed neon jacket to a hook, I found a section of baked goods with double loaves of bread, bags of tortillas & dinner rolls, and individually wrapped coffee cakes, muffins and pastries. Walking through the rest of the grocery section I came across packages of assorted teas and coffee, all kinds of coffee syrups, and many single serve items like individual portions of condiments & salad dressings, sweeteners and creamers. (And for those of you who love Mochi- I saw two different varieties of the sweet rice cake at the San Diego Business Center!)
In the pantry goods section I found massive 50 oz cans of soup (for comparison, the regular little cans you pick up at the grocery store are only 10.75 oz cans) and if you can imagine it, there were even larger bags of flour, sugar and rice than you see in a regular Costco warehouse. I also came across a 1-gallon jar of sauerkraut and a 32 oz jar of capers (the last jar I bought at Whole Foods was only 2.4 oz).
Now, you know how cartoons and TV shows sometimes poke fun at Costco for selling “5-gallon jars of mayonnaise,” well I didn’t see any of those at the Business Centers but I did see 5-gallon buckets of Soy Sauce, 5-gallon buckets of Kosher dill pickles, 1-gallon jugs of molasses, and a variety of different spices in 1-gallon jugs.
Finally as I made my way to the registers I spotted the tobacco area which looked about the same as they do in regular Costco warehouses except there are huge signs stating that tobacco sales are strictly for re-sale purposes only (and you’re required to show a valid resale license).
I had so much fun exploring my first Costco Business Center (and subsequently my second one in San Diego and my third one in Atlanta) but I can’t wait to experience the others!
If you run a small business (including but not limited to a restaurant, bakery, deli, coffee shop, food truck, a catering company, a convenient store, a boutique hotel or bed & breakfast, a daycare, a church, a private club or even a small office) I HIGHLY recommend you check out the Costco Business Center closest to you. And even if you you don’t own a business, if you live near a Costco Business Center check it out if you haven’t already- you might be surprised by what you find!
*Update! So remember that case of glass goblets that I almost bought in L.A.? Well I picked up a case of them along with two cases of wine glasses during my visit to the Morrow, GA Business Center just outside of Atlanta on the way home from a car buying road trip 😉
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Until next time,
the Costco Connoisseur
P.S. – Selections and prices listed above will vary from different Costco locations.
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