There may be no Apple store in the Virgin Islands but buyers started lining up at 3 a.m. Friday, Nov. 1, for the grand reopening of a favorite shopping venue.
Cost-U-Less, the giant grocery warehouse store, welcomed thousands of customers back after a two-year absence from the St. Thomas marketplace.
An estimated thousand shoppers witnessed a 7:30 a.m. ribbon cutting, then formed a line to enter the reconstructed store.
The devastating winds of Hurricane Irma had torn away parts of the building in September 2017, followed by weeks of heavy rain. While the sister store on St. Croix managed to reopen within days of the storms, the St. Thomas store has been missing from the scene until Friday.
General Manager Joe Thorne said the new store was built on the footprint of the old one, which has served the community for close to 25 years. Also back were 75 percent of the staff that had worked at Cost-U-Less two years ago. On opening day they bustled through aisles stocked floor to ceiling with merchandise. Produce workers, dressed against the chill of massive walk-ins, rolled carts of apples, onions, broccoli and melons onto the sales floor.
Gleaming glass coolers filled with bottled wine stood near the checkout. On the other side of the door, under the sheltered walkway, soca tunes and red balloons kept customers company as they waited to sign up for discount shopping cards.
St. John bus mechanic Jean Paul said he was still deciding what to buy.
“I have to look to see what all I’ve got to pick up. I’ve got my card, so when I get in, don’t stop me,” he said.
“Every single piece of what you’re looking at in this store is brand new from the ground up, with the latest and greatest things Cost-U-Less has to offer,” Thorne said. “We opened up the store about a quarter to eight and there were probably a thousand people outside, waiting from three in the morning to get inside and be the first shoppers in the store. The first three hundred shoppers got a free Cost-U-Less bag and a few other things we were giving out. Everyone was super excited.”
Out in the parking lot, one satisfied customer, St. Clair Potter, loaded his pickup truck with a cart full of goodies and a stainless steel salad bowl.
“Lot of household items; cooking, all that good stuff. The place is looking good. They have a lot of organic stuff. It’s spacious – they have a walk-in freezer for cold storage and all that stuff,” he said.
Back in the aisles, Collette Monroe from Water Island nudged a teeming cart.
“All I came in for was bottled water,” she said with a smile.
Some people even dressed for the occasion. V.I. Democratic Party District Chairman Edgar Baker Phillips sported an olive green suit and a broad brimmed hat as he strolled past the welcome back banners. Baker said he came to promote a new locally made bottled limeade. When he saw the crowds, he rushed out of the store to bring in more.
TAGS: Cost-U-Less, warehouse grocery store, Hurricane Irma, St. Thomas business grand reopening