What Shopping At Costco Business Center Is Really Like

When you think of shopping at Costco Wholesale, you probably imagine making a beeline to the free samples or snagging a quick hot dog at the food court. But have you ever considered exploring the popular store's lesser-known cousin, Costco Business Center? Unlike your typical Costco, Business Centers cater specifically to businesses. Currently, there are only 28 locations in the United States, with 11 in California alone. So, unless you're lucky enough to have one nearby, you may have to drive quite a long way to see it for yourself. However, those who have shopped there say the experience is worth it.

Be prepared: Costco Business Center differs in many ways from your regular store. For example, it doesn't sell clothes, toys, and books, but you will find restaurant equipment, janitorial supplies, and more bulk food options. The good news is that you don't have to be a business owner or inventory specialist to shop here. In fact, you may discover that you prefer the atmosphere and unique selection of products for sale. If you're thinking of shaking up your next big shop, here's what to expect at a Costco Business Center near you.

Anyone with a Costco membership can shop there

You're probably wondering if you need a special type of membership to shop at a Business Center — you don't. Access is open to anyone with a Costco membership; there's no need to pay a different fee to shop here. This is a common misconception that likely deters many customers from making the journey. 

If you aren't already a Costco member, the most affordable way to join the club is to become a Gold Star Member. At $60 per year as of 2024, this personal membership plan lets you visit any store location. In comparison, the Executive Membership tier costs $120 per year and comes with exclusive benefits such as savings on Costco services. If you're shopping for your workplace, a Business Membership makes the most sense. Available in both Gold Star and Executive-level tiers, it carries additional perks, including the ability to resell your purchased items.

You can shop early in the morning

Regular Costcos typically open between 9 and 10 a.m. every day. If you prefer getting your shopping done in the morning, these hours make it all but impossible if you work a nine-to-five or have early morning classes. Or, maybe you're just an early riser and have always wished Costco opened at the crack of dawn. Regardless, you're in luck 一 Costco Business Centers open at 7 a.m. Monday through Saturday and 8 a.m. on Sunday. Gas stations at Business Centers (though not every location has one) tend to have different hours compared to regular Costco gas stations.

One thing to watch out for is the closing time. Costco Business Centers close at 6 p.m. every day except Sunday when they close at 4 p.m. Your typical Costco shuts its doors at 8:30 p.m. on weekdays and between 6 to 7 p.m. on weekends. While Saturdays aren't that different at the two stores, Sunday sees a huge disparity. There's nothing worse than arriving at the door and getting kicked out before you're ready. Anyone planning to shop at one of the Business Centers should check the hours beforehand.

There are way more kitchen appliance options

One of the first things you might notice when you walk into a Costco Business Center is the appliance selection. We're not talking about your regular air fryer or coffee maker (but yes, it has those too) 一 expect to see commercial gas range ovens, deep fryers, food slicers, and 60-cup rice cookers. "​​From the industrial toaster to the stick mixer so big you could use it as [an] outboard motor, they have it," said one shopper on Yelp. Designed for use in restaurant settings, these heavy-duty appliances can prepare and hold more food. Unless you're in the business of preparing large quantities of food, the average person probably doesn't have that much use for such devices. Nonetheless, they are certainly fun to look at. 

While Business Centers primarily cater to businesses, they also offer a great selection of household kitchen appliances. One shopper wrote about snagging a pressure cooker, praising its competitive price and durability. Whether you're in the market for a new microwave, freezer, or blender, chances are that Costco Business Center has what you need.

The snacks selection is unmatched

The snack section alone at Costco Business Center makes it worth a trip. Compared to the regular Costco, Business Centers carry more types of chips, crackers, candy, cookies, and other snack foods. If you have a favorite snack, you can probably buy it in bulk here. For example, you can pick up a box of 24 bags of sour Skittles for only $26.09, as of March 2024 depending on the location. Why might someone need so much candy? "It's where we get our Halloween candy (we handed out full size bars last year)," explained a member on Reddit.

Where Costco may only sell variety packs of certain snacks, the Business Centers offer entire boxes of your favorite flavor, in some cases. There are also more individually wrapped packs versus large bags or containers. Convenience store owners or anyone who stocks a vending machine may find this useful. The snack section is exciting to other shoppers, too. In the same thread, one person noted that the smaller bags are better for packing into lunch boxes. Whatever the case, it's the perfect place to replenish your supplies.

You get a wider variety of beverages but no alcohol

While the selection of snack foods might grab your attention first, don't overlook the drinks. Bottled beverages are perfect for filling vending machines or your personal fridge, ready for whenever you need a mid-day pick-me-up. A seemingly endless selection of energy drinks, coffee, tea, soda, juice, and water await you at Costco Business Center. 

One shopper on Reddit marveled at the wide selection of Ito En bottled teas, saying that their regular Costco only has plain green tea maybe half of the time. Another person noted that their usual store doesn't carry their favorite Monster energy drink flavor, but the Business Center has cases of it. At the time of publication, the store website lists 43 different energy drinks, 17 bottled teas, and 70 types of bottled water. Inventory varies by location, but that's almost too many options.

However, if you're searching for a good deal on wine, liquor, or spirits, you'll have to look elsewhere. Unlike the regular warehouse stores, Costco Business Centers don't sell alcohol. While this may be disappointing to some, you can still stock up on mixers and flavored syrups to make drinks at home.

The refrigerated room is much bigger

One of the most exhilarating moments of any Costco run is stepping into the refrigerated room. When you visit a Business Center, get ready to shop inside the largest refrigerator you've probably ever seen. One shopper described it as "easily 3-4 times the size" of the one at a regular store. Inside, you'll find a nice selection of vegetables, fruit, dairy products, and eggs. The cold room is so big that some Business Centers have jackets you can borrow before heading in. Still, shoppers recommend bringing your own just in case.

Expect to find different products inside a Business Center's refrigerated room. Whether the selection is better or worse depends on your personal preferences. As always, the majority of items are sold in bulk. Only at Costco Business Center can you find 5 pounds of tomatillos or a 40-pound case of oranges for sale. Many may find it difficult to finish fresh bulk items before they go bad, but if you have the space to store or freeze them, have at it. Plus, there are many tasty recipes to try if you love oranges and pick up a massive bag.

You might leave hungry

Make sure to eat before you go to a Business Center or you might be disappointed otherwise. That's right, most locations don't have food courts. Stopping for a slice of pizza or a hot dog is a quintessential Costco experience for many, and it's one of the biggest complaints people have about Business Centers.

At the North Hollywood Business Center, which does have a food court located outside, customers have mixed reviews. Some say the service is lacking while others have had issues with quality. Not everything on the menu is the same, either. One reviewer wrote that the food court uses a different brand of hot dogs, for example, but the price of the combo is the same.

Another Costco mainstay that's missing is the selection of free samples. Many shoppers may have fond memories of hopping from table to table to taste whatever new delicacies are on offer. But some customers are happy to skip the samples. One person wrote on Yelp, "This is a godsend for me and is why I hate going to a regular Costco. Oblivious bodies jamming up corners and aisles just to get something for free, that they probably already know about." If this is a deal-breaker for you, maybe stick to the regular Costco stores.

Business Centers are a cheese and meat-lover's dream

If you eat meat or cheese, you're in for a happy surprise when you visit Costco Business Center. The store carries a wider variety of meat, seafood, and dairy, often in shocking quantities. In terms of cheese, stores sometimes stock giant wheels of the stuff. One customer reported their findings on Reddit, sharing a picture of a 75-pound wheel of parmesan on sale for $829.99. What a bargain! Restaurants aren't the only ones who can benefit from that much cheese. One person commented that they regularly purchase the 26-pound wheel of parmesan. "It's not aged quite as much but for the price difference over the pre-shredded one they sell in the container, I'll take the wheel any day," they explained.

If you head over to the meat department, you'll find a selection that would make any chef happy. You can even bring a whole goat, lamb, or small pig carcass home with you. But unless you shop at Costco with friends or have a separate freezer just for meat, you may have to settle for more manageable cuts.

Rotisserie chicken and baked goods fans are out of luck

If you're still burned from finding out that Costco Business Centers don't have food courts, prepare yourself. They also lack bakery and deli sections, meaning that you won't be picking up a rotisserie chicken any time soon. Certain Costco items have risen to the status of legend, making their way into many people's carts with every shopping trip. Costco's muffins, huge sheet cakes, and its famous $4.99 rotisserie chickens are cult favorites among members.

Unfortunately, you'll leave empty-handed if you go into a Business Center for any of these items. A shopper at the Sacramento location wrote on Yelp that visiting the store is still an interesting experience, even without these favorites. But if you're craving baked goods, there are several pre-packaged muffins to choose from. The store website lists several non-Costco brand cakes as well. You'll still be able to find bread, brownies, pastries, and donuts 一 just not freshly baked ones. For the chicken, you'll just have to settle for frozen.

You can find everything you need to host a party

Costco Business Center might not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of party planning. Why shop at Costco when Party City exists? However, Costco Business Center is a one-stop shop for everything you need to have a good time and save money. You can pick up bulk meat and veggies to prepare a feast and complement it with giant packs of drinks like Topo Chico and Jarritos. You may not know that the stores also sell catering supplies. Aluminum foil tins in every size imaginable, table covers, and disposable plates and cups can go a long way when hosting an event. You could also invest in more serious catering equipment, such as chafing dishes to keep food warm. 

One member even relied on Costco to help plan their wedding. "Truly amazing and top quality," they said of the Business Center's printing services. "We ordered all of our wedding invitations, thank you notes, menus, personalized cocktail napkins, and match boxes at the Business Center." Whether you're planning a birthday party, a backyard BBQ, or a family reunion, the possibilities are endless when you look at everything the store has to offer.

The office supplies section does not disappoint

Costco Business Center is a popular destination for managers to stock up on supplies and furniture for the office. But it can also serve anyone looking to upgrade their home office. Members have their pick of desks, swivel chairs, binders, printers, paper, and miscellaneous office supplies. Think of all the pens, pencils, and Post-it notes you could ever want. There are also plenty of storage solutions to help keep you organized, such as shelving units, plastic bins, and filing cabinets.

One shopper wrote of their first visit on Yelp, saying, "I was overwhelmed (in a good way) with the business and office appropriate products and felt like I was in a Staples Megachurch." Anything you can think of, the Business Center probably has it. You can even buy cash registers and fire safes. Teachers are also in luck 一 bulk sizes of erasers, whiteboard markers, and gallon containers of glue make back-to-school shopping much less of a hassle. With all these options, who even needs Office Depot or Staples?

Business Centers aren't as crowded as regular Costcos

The crowds, lines, and general bustle inside Costcos can make shopping a stress-inducing endeavor. What if there was another way? Well, you can (probably) enjoy a more peaceful trip by shopping at a Business Center instead. Those who have shopped there say it's usually much less crowded. According to one Reddit comment, "you can get in and get out a lot faster," which can make all the difference for anyone on a tight schedule.

Another member wrote that while the stores are busy in the early morning, they're empty for the rest of the day. So, if you wait until the morning crowd brings their goods back to their restaurants or shops, you could have the whole Business Center to yourself. Plus, the absence of hot food and free samples is a huge deterrent for many. Fewer families and hungry groups frequent the stores. "The lines are shorter and I've yet to encounter screaming kids," wrote one satisfied member at the Minneapolis warehouse. If you're willing to forgo clothes shopping and hot dog eating, a Business Center might be your key to a stress-free Costco shopping trip.

You can sometimes find better deals

Smart shoppers will notice that shopping at Costco Business Center can sometimes mean better bargains. Members frequently report finding certain items priced more competitively compared to regular Costco stores. One member shared on Reddit that chicken breasts cost less at their Business Center. Another shopper wrote, "Carbonated beverages are slightly cheaper here. Bulk cilantro, basil, peppers ... are dramatically cheaper, but the quantity is tough to utilize if you're only using them fresh." If you have the space to store everything, it's generally cheaper to buy bulk meat, snacks, and drinks at the Business Center.

Double-check both stores 一 sometimes one or the other has a better price on the same item. For example, a 2-liter bottle of Kirkland extra virgin olive oil costs $26.39 on the Business Center website and $21.99 on the Costco Wholesale site at the time of writing. Prices and deals are constantly changing, so check out the Costco Business Center website and the in-store sale flyer to see current offers. Keep in mind that the store runs different deals than at regular Costco locations.