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Johnson City Sam's Club scheduled to open May 24

JEFF KEELING • Apr 12, 2007 at 12:00 PM

JOHNSON CITY - The location for a new Sam's Club has drawn the ire of Kingsport officials and been the site of an explosive construction mishap, but the Wal-Mart-owned warehouse store remains set to open in north Johnson City late next month.

Wal-Mart spokesman Dennis Alpert said the 138,000-square-foot store, located on a hill above Barnes & Noble off of North State of Franklin Road, is scheduled to open May 24. He said Wal-Mart expects to take possession April 23, and interior and exterior work are nearly finished.

If work remains on schedule, Alpert said, the Kingsport store will close May 23. When the company announced relocation plans, officials said the services Wal-Mart wanted to add could not fit into the current location.

"It's going to be a full-service club offering different amenities from a bakery to a meat department, vision center and full pharmacy," Alpert said.

The store will include a gas station, cafe and one-hour photo department as well. It should employ about 200 people.

Employees at the Kingsport store are eligible to transfer to the new store, Alpert said.

The Johnson City Sam's Club project has had its share of drama, starting with Wal-Mart's decision not to stay in Kingsport with its new store. Kingsport Mayor Dennis Phillips was perhaps most vocal in expressing displeasure over what he said was the corporation's failure to communicate with the city prior to its decision.

Alpert told the NET News Service in October that Wal-Mart followed its normal site search routine. He said the lack of nearby stores prompted the move from the current site, and Wal-Mart Stores Inc.'s active search for property during the second half of 2004 did not yield a suitable location in Kingsport.

A couple of months after Phillips' broadsides, the Johnson City location made news again after dozens of cars were damaged by an explosion during blasting by site contractor Summers-Taylor Inc. The Dec. 11 incident, which did not injure anyone, rained rocks and other debris on cars and buildings at the shopping center that houses Barnes & Noble, Stir Fry Cafe and other retailers.

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