The parking lot in Marlboro where the Regal Cinema used to be located was full at 8 a.m. Wednesday morning as hundreds of shoppers showed up for the grand opening of Costco.
After 110 days under construction, the big box warehouse club wholesale store opened its doors to the public. It's 210 employees, including 140 fresh hires from Marlboro and Manalapan and other local towns were at their positions ready to assist customers and entice patrons with free samples.
Dino Ortolan, a buyer from Costco corporate who was at the Marlboro store for the grand opening, said Costco differentiates itself from its main competitor, Sam's Club, by the quality of their food.
"Our Kirkland Signature store brand products are what really sets us apart. The quality is second to none," Ortolan said. "Our frozen chicken is fat free and you can expect regular portions. It's better than [Sam's Club store brand] Member's Mark. I once saw a 17-ounce and a 4-ounce portion in the same bag."
Besides selling a huge variety of food in bulk packaging, Costco sells electronics, furniture, clothing, automotive supplies, liquor, kitchen appliances, software, DVDs, books, and more. There is a fully functional pharmacy that sells eyeglasses and hearing aids, and a garage that replaces tires.
Customers must purchase an annual $50 membership in order to shop at Costco, a fee that can be offset by savings when you buy in mass quantity. Liquor and prescription medicine purchases are exempt from the membership requirement, as is the use of their gas station, which had the cheapest regular fuel on their section of Route 9 on Wednesday at $3.37 per gallon.
"This is a very nice company to work for. There's a good future here," said cashier Angela Salotti, as she was ringing up the store's first customers. "They're kind, and they're good at explaining things."
Salotti, who is from Marlboro, previously worked at Shop Rite, and then Pathmark, which recently went out of business. She said that she and the other employees were fortunate to find jobs.
"They have great corporate ideals here, they worry more about their employees," Salotti said.
"We treat employees well and in turn they take the best care of the customers," said assistant manager Al Collins.