The ‘anti-Wal-Mart’ coming soon | AspenTimes.com

The ‘anti-Wal-Mart’ coming soon

Roaring Fork Valley shoppers will have a chance starting this fall to shop at a membership warehouse dubbed “the anti-Wal-Mart” without much of a commute.Costco is building a 155,000-square-foot store/warehouse in Gypsum. The warehouse is in a business park east of the town core, along the road to the Eagle County Airport.Costco had been “kicking the tires” in the Gypsum area last year and selected a site that had received building approvals 12 years ago, according to Gypsum Town Manager Jeff Shroll.”That’s why I think it flew in under the radar screen,” he said, explaining that Costco officials didn’t need to go through the town review process to get a site approved. That work had already been done, so their decision to move into town was met with little fanfare.Shroll said he was told in meetings with local representatives of the corporation that the Gypsum store will be Costco’s second largest in the country. That couldn’t be confirmed with Costco officials because they declined requests for an interview.It remains a mystery why Costco picked Gypsum, a town with a population of 5,100. Shroll said he could only guess the town landed the big fish because of a favorable location. Costco could draw people from Summit County to the east, Glenwood Springs and other parts of Garfield County to the west, and from the Aspen and the rest of the Roaring Fork Valley. Gypsum is a 65-mile drive from Aspen. However, some people from the upper valley will likely drive that far because of Costco’s policies.A July 2005 article in the New York Times was headlined, “How Costco became the Anti-Wal-Mart.” It detailed how Costco treats its employees well with higher pay and better benefits than its chief rival, Sam’s Club. Costco’s average pay at that time was $17 per hour, or 42 percent higher than Sam’s Club, according to the article.The company also depends on a lower mark-up on merchandise and generally has higher-quality items than many competitors.However Costco arrived at its decision to open in Gypsum, Shroll and many others in the town are thrilled. “They alone will more than double our sales tax revenues,” the town manager said. The town pulled in $2 million in sales tax revenues last year.The draw of a big-box retailer with the clout of Costco usually attracts other national chain stores hoping to capitalize on the traffic. Gypsum has space to accommodate them. The Costco site is part of a 120-acre commercial subdivision that’s already approved.Costco will also be the town’s second-biggest employer behind the school district, according to Shroll. Company officials told him they are looking for about 150 employees.Shroll said Costco has indicated they want to open this fall, but a date couldn’t be confirmed with company officials.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com