The Loh Life

A tale of three Costcos: Part One

The first part of Sandra Tsing Loh's take on three Costcos in the Southland.

What do Los Angeles families do on a Sunday? The ones I know have kids who are in a WHIRL of soccer tournaments, dance competitions, Kumon, or something I heard about RECENTLY that involved the formidable words, “Colburn School/Disney Hall.”

Then there’s my family. Here I was, on a glorious sunny Sunday, TAKING my daughters to Costco to shop for Grandpa’s Centrum Silver and adult diapers. “But that’s because you’re IMMIGRANT children,” I explain, trying to turn the trip into a SOCIOLOGICAL lesson.

And hey--to make the experience even MORE educational, I will TAKE my kids to a whole NEW Costco--the one in Alhambra, CHINESE Costco! It will be a whole new cultural experience!

See—what MY LA-bred children are used to is the one in Van Nuys, a beautiful flagship Costco that commands its own BLOCK. We think of it as MEXICAN Costco. More recently, since moving to Pasadena, we have also visited the one in GLENDALE, which of course by the majority of ITS clientele one can think of as ARMENIAN Costco.

As intellectually tempting as it might BE to parse the ethnic differences between this grand trio of Costcos—Well, the only variations I can think of STOCKWISE is that I’m always pleasantly surprised that Glendale Costco has bacon bits and diced canned tomatoes whereas I’m always pretty excited that Van Nuys Costco has capers. Hm. Just in uttering that sentence aloud, it hits me how many hours of my life I have spent wandering Costco’s grand lanes and boulevards, MUSING as to whether it’s time to buy 12 new electric toothbrushes. It’s kind of me time, I guess.

“Well kids,” I say, snapping back. “At CHINESE Costco a new thing you MAY see, and I think I can SPEAK for my tribe—is several family members huddled around a produce bin, worrying over WHICH bunch of bananas is best. Worrying over bananas—it takes a village—it’s what we do. The seafood counter will also present a wild and exciting mystery. There may be ARGUING amongst family members. Fighting. They might turn the lobsters against each other, like gladiators.”

Unleashed inside Chinese Costco, it comes down, as it always does, to two things—what’s on the TV’s and where are the samples. But then we discover something excitingly new! At least exciting for Costco. What is it? Tune in next week.


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