Several years ago Johnson and Johnson, the enormous multi-national manufacturer, closed a facility located in central New Jersey along the northbound side of Route 1 and sold the 200+ acres to the local township. The township dithered for a long time before finally agreeing upon a plan to construct a new town center on this acreage. Now how you can suddenly create a new town center in a 230 year old township is baffling. Especially when the township is already thriving, albeit in a non-centralized, very spread-out kind of way. Like a really old version of Kim Kardashian. Like Kris Jenner.

Immediately after the township got its act together and unveiled this reimagining of their fair community a big, hulking sign appeared on J&J’s former property which read, “Costco: Coming Soon!!!” The use and/or number of exclamation points may not be entirely accurate. The inclusion of a colon is completely inaccurate, but is that really important? C’mon, people. Focus.

What is important, at least to those who live in that area, is Costco is coming! (Exclamation point accurate.) If you are unfamiliar with Costco they are a bulk retailer. That does not mean they sell bulks. What they sell are goods and commodities in bulk at (purportedly) lower prices. So if you have the need and storage space for 600 rolls of toilet paper, 43 cases of Coca-Cola, and enough hand-sanitizer to supply a hospital, bulk retailers like Costco are for you.

A common perception of New Jersey is one which basically goes like this: “Jiminy Crickets, do you people need more stores and if you do, is there any place left to build them?” Understandable, certainly. Yet New Jersey has plenty of open space ripe for developers with deep pockets and mob connections. Even central New Jersey, which is fast becoming to shopping and overcrowding what Einstein was to physics. And yes, even on Route 1.

If you have had the pleasure of driving on Route 1 through the great Garden State the concept of “open space” probably sounds like some sort of complicated illusion designed to distract with the ultimate goal of leaving you beaten and broken in a filthy gutter. “Hey, look at my left hand while my right hand simultaneously picks your pocket and slaps you silly!” Still, it is true. Open space remains. At least for now. Even on Route 1.

Route 1 is actually one of the country’s mother roads. Not in a “Damn it, another speeding Mother of a motorist just cut me off” way, although that is a legitimate part of its charm. You have to love a highway with a 50 mile per hour speed limit punctuated by ill-timed stoplights every 100 yards. The number of potential road adventures this delicious combination creates renders such mathematical complexities that Will Hunting would suddenly not feel so good, smash his chalk on the ground, and storm off to the nearest tavern to insult pseudo-intellectuals.

Route 1 is also the ultimate progeny of a number of earlier roads which stretched along the Eastern seaboard, most notably the Atlantic Highway. It meanders for 2,300 miles from Maine to Florida, slicing through New Jersey for about 65 of those. In the language of the state 65 miles equates to approximately 9,341 gyms, 13,760 pizza parlors, 27,609 auto body shops, and a library. This does not include the strip malls and diners.

Which circles us back to the gestating Costco in central New Jersey on Route 1. Despite the absolute glut of stores and shopping opportunities in this little swath of the state, bulk retailers have mysteriously been absent. The closest ones are at least 12 miles away. No matter how you slice it a 24 mile roundtrip shopping excursion requires a significant time commitment. You have to set aside at least three hours. Plus whatever time you need for shopping. So the prospect of a glorious future with Costco within a few miles sends the kind of tingle down your spine that a bout with Old Sparky at Alcatraz might have. Oh yes, people are jazzed!

The “Costco: Coming Soon!!!” sign has been standing for 5 or 6 months. There is no visible construction activity, just a clump of dirt accompanied by a slowly rusting earthmover which has been there from the beginning. Hey, maybe Costco figures people have waited this long, a little while longer won’t hurt. They know we are coming. We have a sign! The seed has been planted. By the time we open our doors we will already need to expand because our wildest dreams will have been exceeded! The Costco senior management muckity-mucks probably sport self-satisfied, master of the universe smiles on their capitalistic faces when they think about their upcoming central New Jersey Route 1 adventure. They are already counting the cash.

Then about two weeks ago – on the very same stretch of central New Jersey Route 1 (although on the southbound side) – the beginnings of a concrete frame for a new building suddenly appeared. One day nothing was there, the next day there was a wall. The day after that there were more walls. And the day after that there were even more walls with a sign planted directly off the highway, right in front of the construction. “BJ’s Wholesale Club – Opening Soon!” Oh snap! From zero to sixty in five seconds! Not only is BJ’s, one of Costco’s major competitors, building a store of their own, they are building it within spitting distance of the gestating Costco. And they are being much more definitive. They are not “coming soon”, they are Opening Soon! Just look at those walls!

It will be interesting to see if this impacts Costco’s construction timetable. Maybe tomorrow two rusted earthmovers will be sitting on J&J’s old stomping grounds. Maybe not. Surely someone in the township is feeling mighty good about luring not one, but two bulk retailers into the area. Although it is quite likely any future negotiations with Costco will probably be framed as “tense.” However it all plays out this much is certain: If you got a store, we got prime space for you here in Jersey. And your rivals too.

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Comments
  1. rangewriter says:

    I love your description of Costco. I am always amazed when I discover that some of my single friends actually have a Costco membership. Where do they put all that stuff, I wonder?

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  2. Hilarious! And I’m so jealous – we have no BJ’s in San Antonio.

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  3. MysteryCoach says:

    Waaait till you see the traffic having that there promotes. Whut? LOL … They build a Super Walmart down the road from my house a while ago and I have to say, the way they reconstructed the road and lights are decent. I go “very” early as it’s a 24 hour store and it’s very convenient. I was all a flutter when I realized it was there myself.

    Costco’s on the other hand, they’re always “packed”… I know, I know, such glee … 🙂 LOL (I kid with you) … I’m sure you’ll have a great tongue ‘n’ cheek response for me.

    Why do we live here again? And I remember Johnson & Johnson. Holy cow.

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  4. Snoring Dog Studio says:

    Whole Foods is COMING! Here, in Boise. I have to say I’m looking forward to it. It does mean jobs for lots of people who need them. The site they’re building on was an eyesore, too. The BSU fans will have to walk a lot further to worship at their stadium/tabernacle. I often feel guilty about being grateful for the convenience of a store close by as a way of justifying more construction. I certainly wouldn’t want to see smaller stores go out of business. But here in Boise, the Co-op has had a monopoly far too long, with surly staff and overpriced goods. So I welcome the competition and so do quite a few of us.

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  5. Our town keeps moving the ‘strip’ further up the road from the existing ‘strip’, leaving badly constructed buildings empty as the traffic moves past once thriving areas in the stampede to reach the new discount stores. Personally, I miss the character of the old mom’n’pop stores that specialized in one or two items.

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  6. A versatilely definitive report from a like-minded patriot. I love this.

    I have struggled with the over-whelming types of ‘economic growth’. These conglomerates are so convenient upon first glance.

    But when you watch ‘Mom & Pop’ shops that truly make your heart sing as much for the people working there as the services provided get buried in the name of consumerism, it truly scars the heart,

    Incredibly sad…

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  7. Haha! This was super funny! Ya gotta love Jersey.

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