After months of planning and preparation, the Rock Hill Sam’s Club opened its doors to the public Thursday morning, following a ceremony emphasizing how excited the local community is to have the new megastore.
About 100 people gathered outside just before 8 a.m. to hear speeches from store manager Bill House and community leaders, presenting of the colors and the national anthem, sung by two Sam’s Club employees.
Mayor Doug Echols held up his Sam’s Club card and asked the audience if everyone else had theirs ready.
“This is a really great day for our community and each of us here,” he said.
Once the blue ribbon had been cut, shoppers were allowed inside, where cheerleaders from local high schools, mascots and employees chanted “S-A-M-S” and cheered as the first shoppers rolled their carts in, ready to fill them with everything from large pumpkins to huge boxes of crackers to big-screen televisions.
Down one aisle, Rock Hill mom Maria Arnold and her 7-year-old daughter, Amelia, compared reusable plastic containers before picking one to add to their cart.
Arnold’s family has been Sam’s Club members for years, she said, and they are excited to have an option closer than the Pineville, N.C., store.
“They have cheaper stuff than getting it at the grocery store,” she said. Her four-person family buys food and sometimes tires at the store.
Amelia’s favorite thing to buy at Sam’s Club is bananas. A large bunch of them sat in their cart.
“Because they’re good for you,” Amelia said. She also said she likes all the free samples.
And there were plenty of samples at Thursday’s opening, including several local companies, which were included as a part of Sam’s Club’s “Showcase Events” program, which highlights local products.
One such product was Sequel Select Inc., a Rock Hill-based company that specializes in solid wood urns. Several years ago, president Ian Vosper said the company started using leftover wood to make custom hardwood cutting boards, which were sold at Sam’s Club.
“This is an incredible opportunity for us within a small town,” Vosper said of having his products available at Sam’s Club.
Another local product, Mother Shucker’s Original Cocktail Sauce, could be found down an aisle from Sequel Select.
Three years ago, John Sparrow, owner of The Oyster Bar seafood restaurant in Columbia, decided to start bottling his mother’s cocktail sauce to sell. Both Mary “Mother Shucker” Sparrow and John Sparrow were at Sam’s Club Thursday, handing out samples of the tangy, tasty sauce.
“We really appreciate it,” said Mary Sparrow of being included in the Sam’s Club opening. “It’s a door-opener for people like us.”
Sam’s Club has always had a commitment to being involved with local business owners, company spokesman Mark Scott said, especially since many buy products and supplies from Sam’s Club, which specializes in bulk items.
“People like to buy their local stuff,” he said.
Community organizations are also important to Sam’s Club, said store manager Bill House. The store’s employees already have completed more than 400 hours of community service at local organizations and have given money to organizations and schools.
“We want to be good neighbors in our community,” House said.
At the front of the store, Rock Hill residents Rebecca and Dennis Johnson stood in line to get a Sam’s Club membership, which start at $45 a year. They used to be members, but after they retired, they dropped their membership.
Now that Sam’s Club is in their own community, they said, they’re excited to join back up.
“It’ll be nice for Christmas shopping,” said Rebecca Johnson, who added they use Sam’s to buy groceries and toys for their grandchildren.
But even people who aren’t members have access to some services. For the first three days Sam’s Club is open, and once a month after that, the store offers free health screenings to members and non-members alike.
Members also can get free hearing testing, which can be a major cost-saver, especially for senior citizens, said Lee Ann Fox, who works in the hearing center. She said it’s hard to beat the prices and quality of the hearing aids sold at Sam’s Club.
“Sam’s wants to save their people money,” she said.
The first few days of Sam’s Club’s opening are filled with appearances from local and not-so-local artists and celebrities, like Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen and chef and restaurant owner Jamie Deen.
House said he was excited that everything was finally up and running.
“Emotional,” the store manager said of his feelings on Thursday. “It’s all been excellent.”
Rachel Southmayd • 803-329-4072