Alaska Sam’s Clubs reopen for final 2 weeks in business
Alaskans thronged to the state's three Sam’s Club stores Friday morning, a day after an abrupt closure Thursday and word that they will close their doors for good this month.
Both of the Walmart-owned warehouse clubs were set to open at 10 a.m., with no before-hours shopping opportunities for business cardholders.
People started lining up early at 7 a.m. in search of discounts at the Tikahtnu Commons store in Anchorage, an instinct rewarded by signs at the door offering 25 percent off merchandise.
Jillian Davis hauled out a mattress and a “giant rug” on a flatbed cart through the icy parking lot.
“It was a good deal," Davis said. "I got the queen-sized mattress for only $350 and it’s an $800 mattress.”
Davis said the aisles were packed, on a day which was definitely busier than Black Friday.
“It’s not as crazy as I thought it was going to be," Davis said. "But everyone has giant carts filled with TVs, mattresses, electronics, rugs -- any big-ticket items. they have it all.”
Julie Thogmartin of Eagle River was stocking up on food for her family of 11.
“Twenty five percent off your groceries, when do you get that?” Thogmartin said.
She and her husband piled kitchen staples like ketchup and salt into the back of their van. Thogmartin said with the discount, their bill dropped from $930 to $707.
“This is a great place to shop and it will be greatly missed,” Thogmartin said.
The membership desk at the competing Costco store on DeBarr Road saw an influx of activity Friday. An employee at the store said no special terms were being offered to people who had been Sam's Club members.
Walmart said on Thursday that the two Anchorage Sam's Club stores, as well as one in Fairbanks, were among 63 of 660 locations closing across the U.S. Employees are set to receive a $1,000 bonus recently announced by Walmart, as well as 60 days of pay and potential severance.
According to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, hundreds of people mobbed the Sam's Club location on College Road, leaving the parking lot so densely packed that police closed one street entrance of the store. Fairbanks Police Chief Eric Jewkes said only a "handful" of vehicle crashes were reported Friday morning.
Carol Makar, owner of The Ice Cream Shop at the Girdwood Tesoro Mall, said she drove into Anchorage to stock up at the Old Seward Highway store as soon as she heard word of its pending closure.
“I buy many supplies at Sam’s Club, many items that I can not get anywhere else,” Makar said. “I’m going to try to get as many cleaning supplies as I can get.”
Makar hadn’t heard of the 25-percent discount being offered Friday, but said the crowd suggested the chain has a strong local following.
“When I look and see how long this line is, if Sam’s Club has that big a clientele it’s hard for me to understand why they’re closing,” Makar said.
The stores will permanently close on Jan. 26.
Heather Hintze, Ken Kulovany and Rick Rysso contributed information to this story.
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