Brett Knipmeyer is in the middle of the massive walk-in cooler in Costco’s new Business Center in Anchorage’s Tikahtnu Commons. So far, he’s loaded oil and several types of meat in his cart, but he’s also looking for eggs, milk and rice.
Knipmeyer is the owner and head chef at Kinley’s, an upscale restaurant in Midtown Anchorage. He said he’s excited the Business Center carries a larger variety of meat than a regular Costco. He said it’ll give him more options for his menu. And he’s intrigued to see something else for sale too.
“The thing I saw coming in was, you know, a lot more restaurant equipment,” he said. “Hotel pans, third pans, six pans.”
The new store looks and feels a lot like other Costco locations, but everything from the aisles to the packaged goods is much larger.
On a recent Wednesday at lunchtime it was a lot less busy than a typical Costco. But Business Center general manager Bob Ripley expects that quieter vibe won’t last long.
During an interview at his Anchorage office, Ripley said more than 70% of the merchandise is different from a typical warehouse.
“I don’t know if it’s my favorite thing, but it’s the most unique thing,” he said. “We have whole lamb and goat carcasses back there.”
This is the fifth store Ripley has managed for the corporation. He said the Anchorage warehouses have been providing a business center model, including overnight shifts and deliveries, for at least the last 30 years.
Besides the variety of merchandise, Ripley said Anchorage warehouses weren’t equipped with the same technology and resources compared to Lower 48 Business Centers.
“We needed to do something like this a long time ago,” he said.
Ripley said the new location sells merchandise at significantly lower prices compared to other retailers. He said the affordability could potentially allow businesses to reduce their prices in the coming years.
In the first week of opening, he said he’s already received positive feedback from the community.
“It’s pretty powerful to hear somebody that’s owned a restaurant for decades say that this is something that’s going to save them and their business,” Ripley said.
He said he’s particularly excited the store sells select local brands because the majority of Alaska goods are brought in on barges. He also wants to send Alaska products to the Lower 48.
“My goal is to take a lot of those local items, and have them being sold at Business Centers in Seattle, and along the west coast,” he said.
The new Business Center offers two-day grocery delivery through FedEx to most hub communities in the state, like Nome and Bethel. Ripley said in the first few days of opening, the store had already received orders from Fairbanks, Kodiak and Utqiaġvik.
Ripley said the plan is to offer the same service to every community in the state over time.
In Talkeetna, about 120 miles north of Anchorage, Nina Schwinghammer owns a salmon burger joint called The Salmon Spot. She lives in Anchorage, but delivers groceries and supplies to her business twice a week.
“It’s just been a huge pain,” she said. “So this will basically just alleviate that need to shop the night before. I can just hit it on my way out of town.”
She loves that the Business Center is on the way out of town and opens three hours earlier than warehouses.
Delivery to Talkeetna isn’t available yet , but Schwinghammer is hoping it will be soon. She said that will allow her to order her shelf-stable products for delivery.
“I’m really looking forward to just having a Costco trip where it’s all business,” she said. “I can kind of get everything done a lot faster without having to navigate around.”