You may love shopping at Costco, but do you love it enough to visit the behemoth retailer in almost every state, travel to Costcos abroad, and then write a book about it all? That’s exactly what Susan and David Schwartz, a couple of Costco enthusiasts from New York City, have done.

And yes, they’ve been to the largest Costco in the U.S. — in Utah.

“The Joy of Costco: A Treasure Hunt from A to Z” includes highlights from the couples’ travels to more than 250 warehouses in 46 states and 13 countries, and offers an array of colorful factoids the couple has unearthed on their journey. (Did you know, for example, that Costco sells half of the world’s olive oil?)

“Costco is my happy place,” Susan Schwartz told Deseret over Zoom, pointing out that her glasses, hearing aids and the T-shirt she was wearing were all from Costco — as well as the giant jar of jelly beans on her coffee table.

One of the things that the couple love most about the massive warehouses is the randomness of the product assortment and a kind of treasure hunt-like quality to the experience. “You come down the aisle and see windshield wipers, then chocolate, then soda,” Susan said. “Everything is highly curated for you and it makes the experience fun.”

For David Schwartz, it’s the quality of the products: He recently bought a pair of battery-powered winter gloves he’d normally feel unsafe wearing, but he knew he could trust Costco. “It’s a combination of high quality, low price and that you never know what you’re going to find that makes this place really wonderful,” he said.

What is ‘The Joy of Costco’ about?

Flipping through “The Joy of Costco” is a bit like shopping there — the illustrated book replicates the experience of stumbling upon the random treasures inside the store. Alongside sections about Costco’s history and sustainability practices, you’ll also learn that the company sells seven times more hot dogs than all U.S. Major League Baseball stadiums combined and that in 2016 the company sold over 4 billion eggs. 

After shopping the book around to publishers and getting a couple of offers, the Schwartzes opted to self-publish. “That just shows you how insane we are about Costco,” said Susan, whose background is in retail and marketing. Plus, David, an author who most recently wrote about the nuclear physicist Enrico Fermi, was looking for a new writing project. The couple set out to turn their passion into a book.

At the outset, the Costco leadership was skeptical about the book, but after three years of persistent outreach, the Schwartzes persuaded the company to give them access to tidbits of insider knowledge, and Costco is now selling the book on its website.

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On their global Costco tour, the couple was struck by how popular the warehouse chain was outside the U.S., particularly in East Asia.

The couple visited Costcos in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and China, where the stores were jam-packed in the middle of a workday, David recalled. In Iceland, nearly 75% of the country has a Costco membership, the couple said.

Where is the biggest Costco?

The Schwartzes paid a visit to the smallest Costco, in Juneau, Alaska, and the biggest one, in Salt Lake City, which measures 235,000 square feet, according to the reports the Schwartzes received from the company. The Salt Lake City store is equivalent to the size of four football fields, according to David, and is a combination of a business center and a regular warehouse. 

A fire pit pig for roasting is one of the things David and Susan Schwartz found at the Salt Lake City Costco. | Schwartz family photo

While overwhelming, the scale of the Salt Lake City store didn’t deter the Schwartzes. “They will give you a map so you can navigate the store yourself, because it’s mind-boggling how big it is,” David said. That location will remain special to the couple — it’s where they got the news that they were going to become grandparents. 

Just as much as they love Costco, the Schwartzes are superfans of the warehouses’ builder, Firoz “King” Husein. While visiting the Brigham Young University campus in 2021, the couple got to know Husein, the founder of Span Construction and Engineering, the nation’s largest steel construction company and exclusive builder of Costco warehouses worldwide, and a Latter-day Saint.

Over 30 years ago, when some construction deadlines were falling behind schedule, Husein became known for refusing to let his builders work on Sundays.

“He’s such an amazing man and he embodies what Costco is all about,” Susan said. “The never-on-Sunday story speaks to the same ethic that Costco has in terms of their employees and treating them with respect.” It’s the commitment to continuous improvement that both Costco and Span Construction share, David said.

What are unusual things you can find at Costco?

The Schwartzes have managed to reconcile their love for Costco shopping with their tight living quarters: The couple lives in a 450-square-foot apartment in New York City with a small storage unit in the building, where they store bulkier items like packages of paper towels and toilet paper. “You don’t have to live in a big place to enjoy Costco,” Susan believes.

Another hack the couple learned from Costco shoppers in East Asia is sharing the bigger purchases. “One of the reasons the Honolulu warehouse is in the top 10 is because there are so many multigenerational families living together,” Susan said. 

One of the couple’s more striking finds at the Salt Lake warehouse, Susan said, was a frozen halal goat, which, among other halal items, rested nearby the kosher section at the warehouse. And this kind of diversity when it comes to food and people that come to shop at Costco is another reason the couple is so passionate about Costco.

“People of all shapes and colors of humanity are happily shopping at Costco,” Susan said. “And in this day and age, it’s nice to see people getting along.”