SANTA MARIA, Calif. - At the stroke of 8 a.m. Thursday morning, the brand new Costco in Santa Maria officially opened for business.
"I'm so thankful that I'm here," said customer Arlene Hannagn. "I got the protein shake that I came for. I met my daughter here and her family, so we're just here shopping like we're suppose to."
The opening marks a significant step in the Enos Rancho development. The new shopping center that is located on Betteravia Rd. and Highway 101 has been anticipated for years.
Now, with the opening of its signature business, Enos Ranch is finally a reality.
"I think it's a great offering to the community," said Costco assistant general manager Ronnie Debrum. "It's an amazing building, new facility. Everything is in the right place, much more parking, a lot more friendly shopping experience for members, food court being outside. The whole Enos Ranch project in general is going to be really good for the community."
The new Costco replaces its old facility located just down S. Bradley Rd. The building is 156,000 square feet, which is 18-percent larger than its predecessor.
To help accomodate the larger building, Costco has hired 80 new employees, bringing its work force in Santa Maria to 350 people.
"In addition to exciting new and expanded services, the relocation of the Santa Maria facility will provide our members with an extensive product selection in numerous categories, including fine wine, apparel and electronics," said manager Jim Blount in a statement.
Included in the 4,000 products the new building will feature will be several with Central Coast ties.
"We offer gift cards to a lot of local restaurants, Hitching Post, Far Western," Debrum said. "We have a lot of local products like Cattaneo Brothers jerky, Susie Q's spice, Splash Cafe, a lot of items that we go after locally and develop ourselves."
After the opening this morning, traffic picked up steadily throughout the day.
Parking, which was always an issue at the old location, was a challenge as shoppers packed the lot.
As the new Costco opens, several locally owned and operated businesses in the area continue to carve out a niche in the large shadow cast by the corporate giant.
"Do we compete? Yes, there's always market share that everybody's going after, but I don't really think we're still doing the same thing," said Woody's Butcher Block owner Tim Woodbury.
The butcher market located a couple of miles away on Main St. is about to celebrate its fifth anniversary.
Woodbury says that while Costco also sells a wide variety of meat, his business is a much different type of market.
"You can't go to Costco and buy one steak or two strips of bacon," said Woodbury. "You can't go to Costco and say what has that animal been fed, how old are your animals when they're processed, what breed are they? We do all of that here."
Woodbury added his business has experienced considerable growth during its five years of operation.
He credits that to a business model he created from the very beginning to not carry commodity products found at traditional supermarkets and big box stores such as Costco.
"We have to be some place special to go," said Woodbury. "We have to be different in our level of service, our guarantees, our promises, the quality of what we do, it has to be different."
Next door to Woody's is Arrow Camera, a Santa Maria mainstay since 1943.
Like Woodbury, owner Margrit Holmes also feels like her business does not go head-to-head against the big box stores.
"We don't really see Costco as a competition," said Holmes. "Yes, this is some of the thing that they do the same. We specialize in things that the mass merchandiser cannot do or is unwilling to do. We always go the extra mile."
Holmes emphasizes her business focuses on the quality of her product to keep customers returning to the store.
"A lot of times, you can't compete with price," said Holmes. "That's why you really have to focus on service and quality and I believe that if you give the service and you give the quality, the client will come back."
Both Woodbury and Holmes have plenty of customers coming back regularly thanks to a strong business plan, one that shows small businesses can thrive, even with a corporate giant just down the road.