We Tried Every Free Sample Today at the New Costco in Billings
Usually, I avoid grand openings like the plague.
I feel there is rarely any reason for me to be "first" when something new opens in Billings. Crowds aren't really my thing, and whatever the next new thing is (if it's good) it will still be here in a few weeks, months, or years after it opens. It took me 18 months to finally go check out Carverss.
Costco got me on opening day.
We got a Teams message from a coworker this morning saying, "Because I'm a loser on a staycation I'll go snag some photos at the new Costco grand opening." I called him promptly at 10 a.m. as I wrapped up my show. Middle-age-guy, to middle-age-guy... I had to know. "How is it? Is it crazy down there?" I asked. Costco is Costco, I realize that. But this one is NEW.
Perhaps the crappy weather kept the crowds in check.
When I pulled into the lot, it was full of cars. Inside didn't seem any more crowded than the old Costco on a Friday. My initial take is that the new store is huge. There are certainly more items and bigger stacks of stuff. Look at the giant wall of toilet paper, below.
Today, I wasn't here to shop. I was here to eat.
I should have grabbed a cart and got some dog food while I was there, but I know very well the danger of getting a cart at Costco. One or two things quickly balloon to $300 worth of stuff.
Instead, my plan today was to try every single sample available. I usually don't, because usually I'm in a hurry to get in and get out of the store as quickly as possible. Not today, my bulk-bargain shopping friends. Let's get started.
1. A liquid vitamin.
At the old Costco, you walk through the vitamin section last. I think I got turned around in the new store because the first sample I encountered was a liquid vitamin. It was... not my favorite. Hoping to cleanse my palate ASAP, I headed to the next freebie.
2. City Brew Coffee
This Costco seemed to be focused on more Montana-based samples today. My next stop was a sample cup of City Brew Coffee. The Cool River blend from the Billings coffee roaster was my favorite.
3. Alpine Touch on Wheat Montana toast.
Montana's favorite spice company was on-site today with little quarters of Wheat Montana toast featuring a sprinkle of their various seasonings. It was a surprisingly tasty little snack.
4. Bison fajitas from the Roam Free Ranch.
I could smell this delicious dish as I rounded the corner near the back of the new store. The Roam Free Ranch is a first-generation bison ranch in Hot Springs, MT. As the kids say, the fajitas were fire.
5. Costco brand chicken pot pie.
We buy these all the time because my family loves them. I didn't need to taste a sample, but my goal was to try every single sample today. So I did.
The adorable ladies working the sizzling grill in the meat department asked what my favorite sample was so far (I told them I was trying everything in the store). "This is about to be", I said, devouring a bite-sized sample of steak.
Okay, so they weren't offering beer samples on-site. A rep from Costco's new neighbor, Meadowlark Brewing, had a table and an endcap of their KOA brew. The beer rep seemed stuck in a long conversation with a couple and I didn't have the patience to wait around to chat. I think I overheard her mention something about free beer. I assume it's a coupon you can redeem at the brewery next door, but I could be wrong.
8. Another liquid vitamin.
I circled the store again and spotted a sample I missed back in the vitamin section. This was some sort of fizzy, vitamin, energy drink. The taste wasn't bad. The rep told me she flew up from Vegas to host the sample stand all weekend. She wasn't a huge fan of our cold and snow.
9. Bequet Caramels
My eyes lit up when I spotted the last free sample. These Montana-made caramels are my absolute favorite (get the sea salt ones!) and I thought they were a perfect treat to wrap up my Costco buffet.
The new food court is bigger and laid out much better. Various non-food companies had booths and reps at the new store and there were employees everywhere. There are more gas pumps and a traffic stoplight system at the fuel station. The parking lot seems designed to provide better pedestrian access to the store and keep traffic speeds low throughout the lot, which I appreciate.