BILLINGS — The long-awaited grand opening of the new Costco on Zoo Drive is finally here. Although the roads in Billings were covered in ice Friday morning, opening day filled the massive parking lot with cars and excited shoppers.
Shoppers rose long before the sun for the special day.
"Big adventure for the day out," said Diane Klemann, a Billings resident, on Friday. "We’re big supporters of Costco and enjoy Costco as it was. So this is going to be much better."
They traveled on icy roads to be a part of the grand opening fun that began at 8 a.m. at the new Costco, located at 3880 Zoo Drive near Meadowlark Brewing.
“It was good. We went slow," Klemann said. "We're all good."
Diane and her husband, Jim, live in the Heights but awoke extra early Friday morning to travel across town.
“You know, if you go down Zimmerman, it’s pretty easy," Klemann said. "So it’s fine."
At the store, MTN News met up with Doug and Frank Clark, a father and son duo honored with cutting the store’s grand opening ribbon.
"He’s been coming to Costco for quite a while," Doug said on Friday. “As many Thursdays as he can get here. Sometimes he has appointments to make, but for the most part, every Thursday."
Frank, a 99-year-old World War II veteran, had been making weekly trips to the old Costco for lunch for more than a decade with his son.
"He’s made all kinds of friends here and he also gives out Tootsie Pops to the little kids after they finish with their lunch,” Doug said. “He’s just made so many friends here and it’s wonderful that he has done so."
He is also constantly recognized for his sacrifices when he dines at the store.
“We met a gentleman last week in Costco, and he was from Normandy. He asked my father where he served. My father said he served in Europe in the Third Army under General Patton. He went into Utah Beach a few days after D-Day," Doug explained. "The gentleman was moved, you could tell how moved he was. He thanked my father for his service. That’s just one of many of the incidents that we’ve had here."
Doug said these types of interactions happen often to his father.
“It means a lot," Doug said.
One of Frank’s friends, who joins him every week for lunch, said it’s not about shopping trips, but rather making lasting friendships.
"Came in one day, he was sitting at the food court all by himself. I sat down and started visiting with him. I had known him from, I used to work for a steel company and I used to see him at Western Sugar. He used to work at Western Sugar and he did the receiving there. So I met him there and then I saw him here and after that, every Thursday afternoon we’d come and have lunch together," said Bob Goetz on Friday. "We’ve done that for, like I said, about 12 years. It’s good to be here."
Twelve years strong with no plans to stop—and now, a new location to convene at.
“We wish the best to Costco. We want to wish the best to the patrons who shop here," Doug said. "We want to thank the wonderful employees that work here, and we know there will be a lot of friendships here in the future."
Costco employees told MTN News that the sales space has grown along with the eye center, but not much else. The new bakery is also smaller.
The new property is more than 166,000 square feet in size. It features a massive parking lot, which includes 850 parking spots and 24 gas pumps. The store on King Ave. only has 591 parking spots on site.
MTN was told by a Costco employee the merchandise that wasn’t sold from the previous store won’t be transferred to the new location that’s already fully stocked, but instead will be shipped out to other warehouses across the country.
The old store is listed for sale at $11.5 million. The nearly 142,000-square-foot property is located at 2290 King Ave W.
To learn more about the new Billings Costco, click here.