When is Sam's Club coming?
Gary Pinnell | Highlands TodaySEBRING - Johnny Cheng and his partners have been working for months on their new restaurant, Hibachi Buffet. It will open in mid-December, and he hoped that Sam's Club would follow next year.
Published: December 9, 2012
Published: December 9, 2012
"Yeah, it's on the lease," said Cheng's sister, Wang. "We pay $7,500 a month for the rent, and when Sam's Club comes, they are going to charge us 3 percent of sales."
Now they're disappointed.
Exactly when is Sam's Club coming?
Walmart bought Sebring Square Shopping Center and filed plans with the City of Sebring building department for a 93,350 square-foot store.
Last summer, the old Scotty's and Bonanza were demolished and storefronts like Dollar General and State Farm Insurance moved out.
But instead of building the members-only wholesale store, Walmart planted sod on the cleared lot, which has sat vacant for 17 months.
So when is Sam's Club coming?
One answer arrived in a Nov. 30 letter from Jacksonville attorney Rosel Pine to the City of Sebring and County Engineer Ramon Gavarrete.
"We represent Sam's Club," the letter stated. The building permit expires in 2014, but Florida law grants an automatic extension. "Accordingly, Wal-Mart, as the property owner and permittee, hereby respectfully notifies the city that the subject development order is extended and renewed for an additional two years from its current expiration date through May 6, 2015."
"We don't have a timeframe for beginning construction on this project at this time," said Mark Scott, public relations manager at Sam's Club corporate office.
"I think it would help us tremendously," said Vern Vann, owner of the barber shop between Beef O'Brady's and Subway for 25 years. The shop recently moved from the breezeway on the north side of the shopping center to its new location facing the future Sam's. "All we have in this shopping center is restaurants."
Well, there's a furniture rental, but Vann's point is that the rest of his neighbors are McDonald's, Havana Days and the still-to-be completed Hibachi Grill.
"I think it would be good for Highlands County," Vann said.
Like Cheng, who is from Arcadia, and Amy Torres, general manager of Beef O'Brady's, Vann knows that Sam's has a regional pull. They expect residents and small business owners from five surrounding counties will park in the same lot.
"They may see Beef's and stop in for dinner," Torres said.
Havana Days has its own pull, said Dayane Zamora, owner. "I don't think it will affect us, one way or another. But it would be a nice source of income for the town."
Two Sam's Club stores just opened in Texas and Illinois; each hired 200 workers.
Wang and Cheng expect their Oriental buffet to prosper.
"But Sam's is one of the most important things," Wang said. "If it's not going to show up in the next couple of years, we are going to have to deal with the landlord again. I don't know if we will have enough traffic."