HARKER HEIGHTS — A crowd of more than a thousand people gathered to watch Sam’s Club officially open its doors for business Thursday.
By the time the club opened at 8:30 a.m., a steady line of traffic and people were flowing into the national retail store known for its annual member fees and discount prices on bulk items.
Cars were backed up past Seton Medical Center Harker Heights along East Central Texas Expressway, vying to turn into the parking lot while other cars circled the lot hoping to find an empty spot.
“We were on the road by 6 a.m. and made the 55-mile drive from Lampasas,” said longtime Sam’s Club member Sandra Blake. “We used to make the 110-mile round trip once a month or so to shop at the one in Temple and are ecstatic that they opened up one in Harker Heights.”
Inside, members stacked their carts high with dog food, toilet paper and other goods, and enjoyed a variety of free samples and other grand-opening events scattered throughout the 138,000-square-foot building.
Kicking off the morning’s events, the Harker Heights High School’s JROTC color guard posted the colors, and the Harker Heights High School band and cheerleaders got the crowd revved up.
Harker Heights Mayor Mike Aycock and Killeen Mayor Dan Corbin spoke during the morning festivities.
“I remember driving around this area with my dad and P.R. Cox in 1975 and (U.S.) Highway 190 was under construction, and this was all undeveloped farm and ranch land and we were just excited to have gotten a Dairy Queen at the time,” Aycock said. “He said he knew he wouldn’t live to see the day when 190 would be lined with flourishing businesses, but that one day is here.
“We are happy that Sam’s saw the potential of Harker Heights and are looking forward to the economic impact they will have on our city and its effects on the quality of life for our residents,” Aycock added.
Killeen resident Linzey Bonilla was the first person in line at 7:30 a.m.
“We canceled our membership when we got here because we didn’t want to drive to Temple to shop,” she said. “Now that I am about to become a mother of four, I’ve got a lot of mouths to feed, so I am happy they opened up one here. For what we need, they offer it at great prices.”
Sam’s Club recently hired 190 employees for the store, including 67 veterans.
“I retired Aug. 31 after 29 years of food service, and I wanted to stay in that field which is why I looked into Sam’s,” said Thomas Smith Jr., cafe team lead. “What drew me to consider Sam’s for employment was the fact that they genuinely cared about supporting veterans. I’m fortunate to have been able to secure a job in an area I’m passionate about.”
Sam’s Club hired military spouses, too.
“As a spouse, it’s hard to find a job when you move every two to three years,” said Jozy Aponte, a bakery associate. “Sam’s Club gives me job security because when we have to move, I can transfer to another club.”
The Harker Heights, Killeen and Hispanic-American chambers of commerce participated in the ribbon-cutting event, along with Joe Tovi, club manager, and various department managers.
Comments about Sam's Club:
“Sam’s Club will help us to grow into a regional shopping area. ... They are a great addition to our economy and their affects will be long reaching.”
Killeen Mayor Dan Corbin
“Being here is a great venture for Sam’s Club and a great venture for our chamber. We can’t thank them enough for what they have done for our community and for putting us on the map even more than we already are.”
Harker Heights Chamber of Commerce President Bill Kozlik