Little guys brace for the big box
EAGLE COUNTY ” On the eve of Costco’s opening, downvalley merchants are bracing for an impact, and counting on customer loyalty.
Doug Sterkel, a partner in Eagle’s Performance Automotive gas station, expects his business will feel an impact, particularly early on.
“They (Costco) are big enough that they can be priced below everybody ” that definitely affects small business trying to compete,” says Sterkel, who grew up in the valley. He’s worried that Costco is in a position to sell items under cost.
“We’re going to be competitive to the extent that we can,” he says.
He admits that he’s “kind of sorry” to see the big box coming into the lower valley. He understands that the store’s presence was driven by local government desire for sales tax.
“I think it will affect a lot of small businesses in a negative way,” he says.
Sterkel has already seen a little drop off in sales since Costco’s gas pumps opened two weeks ago. He predicts his business will probably get most of its volume back, due to continuing population growth. Plus, he notes, his customers get services not offered at Costco ” such as a car wash, auto repair, and diesel fuel.
“We accept all the major credit cards ” and we don’t require a membership fee,” notes Sterkel.
Peter Struve of Mac’s Liquors in Gypsum has a strategy for dealing with competition from Costco.
“We will continue to offer convenience, customer service, and personalized service like we’ve been offering for many years,” says Struve, who opened the store six years ago. “We pretty much know our customers by their first name. That’s part of what being in a small town is all about.”
Annie Hoza Colby, manager of the Eagle Pharmacy, says her store is also ready to take on the Costco challenge. The pharmacy has a 100-year history in Eagle with the last 40 years under the management of the Hoza family.
“We plan to continue as we have for over 40 years with the same quality of service and products,” says Colby, “We can provide nearly everything that Costco can’t.
“My staff smiles and laughs. Collectively, we have over 100 years of pharmaceutical experience on our staff.”
She points out that Eagle’s new streetscape design has created some close-in diagonal parking for pharmacy customers.
There have been many times when an off-duty pharmacist opened the doors and filled an after-hour prescription, Colby said, and clerks carry packages out to the curb for patients who have a hard time getting out of their cars.
Like most small businesses downvalley Performance Automotive continually gets requests from local nonprofit groups who want products or service donated for fund-raising events. For years, Performance Automotive has sponsored little league teams, high school rodeo, Little Britches Rodeo, and various programs for the Western Eagle County Metro Recreation District.
“It is the small business that actually support the community,” he says. “I will be surprised if Costco steps in and fills that void. Time will tell,”
Vail Daily, Vail, Colorado
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