Costco loads shelves

Costco loads shelves

Discounter's staff hastens toward late October opening

September 29th, 2010 by Andy Johns in Business Around the Region

Staff photo by Dan Henry/Chattanooga Times Free Press - Eric Zimmerman unloads Christmas lights as the first pallets of merchandise arrive at the new Costco in Fort Oglethorpe, Ga., on September 28, 2010.

Staff photo by Dan Henry/Chattanooga Times Free Press...

FORT OGLETHORPE, Ga. - As the first loads of merchandise came into the Costco Wholesale Club on Tuesday, forklifts weaved around each other, moving pallets of gift wrap, microwaves, cosmetic bags and shop stools.

When a new truck carrying luggage, body butter and a Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer lawn ornament arrived, crews quickly shuttled the last few pallets of iPod speakers, humidifiers and snow boards from the previous load out of the way.

The activity will be a familiar sight for the 80 or so employees as crews fill rows of shelves leading up to Costco's Oct. 27 opening.

"It's nice having everything brand new," said General manager Bob Palermo.

The store's gas station opened to members Friday. The store began selling memberships Tuesday afternoon.

Earlier Tuesday, crews installed cash registers while landscapers put down sod. In the receiving area, the third shipment of shopping buggies arrived. Yellow sticky notes with words such as "pasta, rice, tomatoes" and "cereal" marked the shelves.

Overall, Palermo said he is happy with the progress.

"I've been at openings where we've been planting trees the night before," said Palermo. "We're well ahead of schedule."

The club has more than half of its planned 150 employees already at work. As of Tuesday morning, Palermo said he had hired 35 local residents and taken 44 transfers from Costco stores as far away as California.

Managers will resume interviews for remaining jobs next week, but the office has been flooded with more than 11,000 applications. Three of the employees already hired are Costco employees who live in Northwest Georgia and have been commuting to the store in Kennesaw.

Human resources administrator Dawn Ewers, who lives in Dalton, Ga., was making the three-hour round trip to the Cobb County store daily until she landed a transfer to the new store.

"I'm so excited about that," said Ewers, whose commute will drop to about 25 minutes one way.

Shoppers are also excited.

Jenny Williams, of Boynton, Ga., and a group of friends stopped by the Costco gas station to fill up.

"This will be great for this area," she said.

Costco member and Red Bank resident Raymond Taft also stopped by for a fill-up Tuesday.

"They give you over and above what the others stores do," said Taft, a former Costco employee.

His wife, Jeanne, said she is looking forward to the service, selection and experience of shopping at the Costco.

"You don't get a lot of that at other stores," she said.

Contact Andy Johns at ajohns@timesfreepress.com or call 423-757-6324.