Sam’s Club has arrived.
The membership-only retail store, which specializes in bulk goods, will open its doors in Harker Heights at 8:30 a.m. Thursday to a very eager community.
“I haven’t shopped in a Sam’s Club in years, so I am excited to see what they have to offer in terms of products and pricing,” said Kritina Bagent, a Killeen resident.
Sam’s Club, a division of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., is the nation’s eighth-largest retailer. Sam’s Clubs boasts 600 locations in the U.S., Brazil, China and Mexico. The nearest Sam’s Club in Central Texas is in Temple.
Quality, name-brand merchandise at exceptional prices: It sounds simple enough, but at Sam’s Club, it’s a concept the company has taken to a higher level.
“We are not just a place to save money. We offer solutions that can help ease a busy schedule, like in our fresh-food-to-go area where you can have dinner on the table in no time,” said Club Manager Joe Tovi. “Whether you are stocking your pantry at home or a business, shopping for new electronics or getting ready for the holidays, our members count on us as their source for the products and services they need to streamline their lives.”
Since its inception in 1983, the Sam’s Club operating philosophy has remained the same. The stores are not stores, per se, but “clubs.” And shoppers are “members” who pay an annual fee to shop inside. The chain has more than 47 million members worldwide.
“We work hard to be the buying agent for members and deliver by eliminating unnecessary costs and maintaining a simple shopping environment,” Tovi said. “An average household, consisting of two adults and two children, can earn between $200 and $300 in cash-back rewards and save $1,500 a year just by shopping with us and shopping our club brands.”
Construction on the 138,000-square-foot building began early this year at the corner of West Central Texas Expressway and Memory Lane, south of U.S. Highway 190 in Harker Heights. The store has 175 employees.
“Sam’s Club has become a destination place for a lot of people,” said Harker Heights Mayor Mike Aycock, adding the city has changed and grown over the past 10 years. “People will come from all over the county to shop here, and hopefully, they will explore what the rest of the area has to offer in terms of restaurants and businesses.”
Since the project broke ground, the company has immersed itself in the community. Sam’s Club will present several grants, totaling $25,000, to local schools, organizations and businesses Wednesday. The warehouse store also donated 10 new 50-inch LCD TVs to the Harker Heights and Killeen fire departments.
“They have been tremendous in terms of their community support in the short time they have been here,” said Harker Heights Chamber of Commerce membership and events director Gina Pence. “Sam’s really wants to build a partnership with the community.”
Known primarily for its bulk-sized items, Sam’s also offers more user-friendly sized items for members.
“We as a company don’t want you to buy a giant jar of mayonnaise that will last you a year,” Tovi said. “Those are better suited for business members, so we carry a more manageable size for other members.”
In terms of merchandise, each club’s offerings are tailored to the community it is in.
“We went after things that made sense for this community — like hunting gear and gun safes — but we have a good mix of high-end name brands and everyday staples,” Tovi said. “Every Sam’s Club will offer similar items, but we really try to gear our offerings to what makes sense for the area as well as a good mix of merchandise across the board.”
In addition, Sam’s Club has a café. “You can come here and get lunch for under $3,” Tovi said.
With Fort Hood as a close neighbor and Harker Heights and Killeen having a substantial military population, Sam’s Club offered free memberships for active-duty and retired military personnel, military spouses and military contractors.
“We wanted to do something for the military community and show them our appreciation for what they do for our nation,” Tovi said.
Gary Lee Krise Jr. took advantage of getting his free membership earlier this week.
“I would have paid to get a membership anyway, but when I heard they were giving them away free to military, I couldn’t pass up the offer,” he said. “I’m glad they opened up a place here so I don’t have to travel to Temple to shop anymore.”
Annual membership packages start at $45.
To kick off its grand opening, Sam’s Club and General Mills will host a member appreciation event featuring former Dallas Cowboys defensive end Ed “Too Tall” Jones. As part of the day’s celebration, he will meet with fans and sign autographs from 3 to 5 p.m. opening day.
Autographs are limited to one per person and are only guaranteed for the first 120 people in line, but he will sign more if time allows. The store will offer grand opening prices during its first week, including special pricing on electronics, name-brand jewelry, watches and purses.
Aycock and the Harker Heights Chamber of Commerce will participate in a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 8 a.m. Thursday. The store is at 3600 W. Central Texas Expressway in Harker Heights.