A new BJ’s Wholesale Club opened its doors to Ithaca’s large college student population Saturday near The Shops at Ithaca Mall and will unveil its green initiatives to cater to the city’s environmentally conscious residents.
Kelly McFalls, a representative from BJ’s, said the majority of those signing up for memberships so far are college students, solidifying the company’s decision to expand to Ithaca.
“The location was right,” she said. “The potential for business was right.”
Sophomore Eve Rosekrans said she would consider going to the new BJ’s location because of her positive experiences shopping at one of the stores near her home.
“I have a BJ’s where I’m from, and it’s great because you can buy a ton of stuff in bulk, and as a college student, I love stuff in bulk because it’s cheaper,” she said.
In order to appeal to the city’s sustainable mentality, McFalls said the company took steps to make the store greener by conserving energy and increasing its waste-reduction efforts.
The new location will mark some green firsts for BJ’s Wholesale. It will showcase the company’s first electric car charging station as well as a larger supply of organic and all-natural foods.
“The way we plan a club, we try to be as green as possible,” McFalls said. “We were aware that Ithaca is a very green town, so that is one of the things we did think about when we came into Ithaca.”
As with all of its locations, the store will not use plastic bags and will recycle its product boxes to make them available to customers so they can transport their purchases home.
In addition to the Ithaca location’s exclusive electric car charging station and larger natural foods selection, Falls said a specific lighting system has been installed in the store to use less electricity.
Rosekrans said the high price tag on a membership might be a deal breaker, since customers are required to become a member to shop at the store.
A yearlong membership currently costs anywhere up to $100, but the wholesale club is offering a discounted membership price of $30 a year for college students. With a normal membership, one other person can be added as someone from the household for no extra charge. This is not allowed with the student membership, but students are able to add up to three supplemental cards — possibly for their friends — for $25 per person.
McFalls said despite concerns like Rosekrans’ about the costly membership price, customers could potentially save up to 30 percent on a basket of groceries compared to other stores, which would make it worthwhile in the end.
“I know that a lot of people find that they will earn their membership fee back in the amount of money they’re saving,” she said.
McFalls said they anticipate the club’s distance from Ithaca College, Cornell University and Tompkins Cortland Community College will also have an effect on the number of students who become BJ’s members. The new location is approximately six miles from the college and about three miles from Cornell. However, for students without cars on campus, like freshman Christine Benway, the store is not so accessible.
“It would be difficult to take the TCAT bus and carry tons of food back that is in bulk,” Benway said.
As a freshman living in a residence hall, she also said there isn’t much room in her dorm for her to store large quantities of perishable and non-perishable food.
Margaret Keating, co-president of IC Environmental Society, said the new BJ’s is a viable option for residents who wish to shop sustainably but cannot afford the prices of local food markets.
“In a perfect world, everybody would be able to shop locally and get as much food as possible from the farmers’ market or GreenStar, but I know that’s not feasible for everybody,” she said.