Construction has begun on a Parole warehouse shopping club twice thesize of a typical grocery store.
Sam's Club, a division of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., will open its doors by midsummer, said spokesman Timothy Adams.
The members-only warehouse, a one-story, no frills structure thatwill carry a mix of products at wholesale prices, is being built on 20 acres off Generals Highway, across from Annapolis Mall. Workers have begun clearing the area to prepare for construction, for which thecounty granted a building permit March 6.
While Wal-Mart, a Bentonville, Ark.-based discounter, has become the nation's No. 1 retailerby building a base in rural, largely under-served areas of the Midwest and South, Sam's Clubs have typically opened in busier, more competitive areas, Adams said.
Parole, close to Annapolis and in the vicinity of Baltimore, fit the bill, he said. The Wal-Mart division chose it as the site of the state's second Sam's, after opening the first in Hagerstown, in Washington County.
"We look for a larger business base, and the potential for growth has to be present," Adams said. "Obviously, that's the case in Annapolis."
Another shoppers' club, The Price Club, is located in Glen Burnie. Adams said Sam's faces similar competition in other markets, which he said he believes helpsfamiliarize customers with the warehouse club concept.
"We view our competition as healthy," he said.
He described the 130,000-square-foot warehouse -- the larger of two sizes used for the other 212 Sam's stores -- as a "working warehouse with forklifts, concrete floors, exposed rafters and steel racks with merchandise sitting on pallets, stacked high to the ceiling."
Sam's promotes itself with the slogan, "In Business For Your Business," selling name-brand merchandiseat a discount to members -- business owners or operators and employees of various groups such as governments, colleges and airlines. Members would either use the merchandise in their own businesses or for themselves or resell it at a profit.
Besides the usual array of office supplies, frozen foods, tires, hardware, snacks, computers and VCRs, the Parole store will also include fresh meat, delicatessen and produce departments. It will be open limited hours.
To maintain lowprices and compensate for narrow profit margins, Sam's buys huge quantities of just a few, widely used brands at reduced prices and makesmoney off $25 annual membership fees.
Wal-Mart, which has three stores in Maryland and others planned for Elkton, Waldorf and EllicottCity, started the Sam's division in 1983. The division opened 62 newstores since the end of last year and plans 35 more this year in Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, New Jersey and New England.
"It's a growing concept," said Adams. "We've found the states up and down the East Coast receptive."
Planners in the county Office of Planning andZoning's urban design division, who worked with the developer on theproject, were not available to comment on Sam's plans.
Owners of the Parole site previously had worked out an agreement with Safeway to build a 175,000-square-foot retail strip center but never picked uptheir permits.
Shep Tullier, a county comprehensive planner, saidhe was reserving judgment on how the new wholesaler would affect thecongested Parole area.
"In the market today, these big retail uses seem to be the rage," he said.
"We haven't had one before. We don't really have a track record to know whether this is a positive addition to the Parole area."