When David and Susan Schwartz hopped on the phone to chat about their favorite store, they were sweating it out in Jackson, Mississippi, hundreds of miles away from their 450-square-foot apartment in New York City.
“In Jackson, Mississippi, it’s already 100 degrees. We’re going to at least one Costco in every state of the country and this is our 41st state,” David tells TODAY.com in late August. “I think we have five more states to close on 46.”
Costco has over 850 locations worldwide, including in Australia, Iceland, France, Japan, Mexico and the U.S., which boasts more than 500 stores across 46 states — and the Schwartzes planned to visit all of those states before their book “The Joy of Costco: A Treasure Hunt From A to Z” was officially released Sept. 12.
The book, written by the pair and illustrated by Martin Hargreaves, highlights all sorts of facts about the 40-year-old company that only a pair of Costco superfans would venture to find out.
“You know, there are people who go to baseball stadiums across the country. We’re the people who go to Costco wherever we go,” Susan tells TODAY.com, adding that when they would go on vacation, whether it be Las Vegas or Puerto Rico, their first stop would be Costco. “It’s a treasure hunt. It’s like an Aladdin’s cave of joy. It’s my happy place.”
The Schwartzes have been to over 200 warehouses around the world in preparation for their book — Japan, Iceland, Taiwan and more.
While writing their book, the Schwartzes spent time talking to employees both domestic and international, as well as visiting Costco vendors, distribution centers and manufacturing facilities.
“We’ll have been to a Costco in each of the 14 countries around the world and then one of each of the 46 states plus Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico,” Susan says. The couple, who have been married for 20 years, say that their remaining stops include New Hampshire, Vermont, Kentucky, Ohio and North Carolina, which they’re headed to next.
“I think our last stop is going to be Ohio, at which point I’m going to fall down on my knees and weep,” David jokes.
The Schwartzes, hope that their book, with its over 270 pages, will answer questions you’ve always had about Costco — like which state has the most of them (it’s California, with 133) — and also teach you things you never would have wondered about concerning the big-box store. Starting at A, where they highlight the smallest Costco in the world, in Juneau, Alaska, the book is somewhat of an alphabet book for adults — a bedtime story for folks with a 401K, if you will.
Ending with Z, where the book highlights the produce, flora and regional desserts of a Costco location in Zama, Japan, the authors provide the reader with the rare and delightful opportunity to open up a book to a random page and learn a pretty nifty icebreaker.
While there are sections in the book as meaty as the nearly 10-pound Serrano hams it sells, offering insights into Costco’s history, expansion and sustainability practices, there are also plenty of lighthearted tidbits, like the fact that the store sells more than half of the world’s cashews, or the even-more-staggering fact that it sells seven times more hot dogs than all the baseball stadiums in the U.S. combined.
“Costco sells 3,800 to 4,000 items at most, and an average supermarket sells 40,000 items,” Susan says. “So when you walk into Costco, it’s already been pre-selected and guaranteed for quality. But you just don’t know what you’re gonna find around any corner. We walked into a warehouse in Taiwan at one point and there was like a two-foot-high bottle of Glenmorangie whisky.”
Did they buy it? Of course they did — and lugged it all the way home to Manhattan.
“I saw a two-liter bottle of really fine single-malt scotch for $55. I thought, ‘Well, I’ve got to take that,’” David says, adding that the pair had to buy a new suitcase for the giant bottles, but that it was easily checked and made it home safely, likely enjoyed with one of the many charcuterie items from their local Costco.
And if you’re wondering how a husband and wife successfully visited so many Costco locations around the world, wrote and edited a book about it and still remained happily married, the couple say their hobby-turned-book only strengthened the bond between them.
“We have a number of shared passions and ones we pursue independently. Susan likes to say that we’ll talk to anyone about three topics: Costco, birding and our grandchildren,” David says. “So those are three topics where we share our passion and that brings us closer together.”