Sam’s Club pulls plug on Exton location

Dale Rowland of Coatesville laments the imminent closing of Sam’s Club in Exton on Thursday. The retail giant announced the store will close on June 30.
Dale Rowland of Coatesville laments the imminent closing of Sam’s Club in Exton on Thursday. The retail giant announced the store will close on June 30. Brian McCullough - Digital First Media
PETE BANNAN  DIGITAL FIRST MEDIA    
The Sam’s Club in West Whiteland is closing June 30.
PETE BANNAN DIGITAL FIRST MEDIA The Sam’s Club in West Whiteland is closing June 30.

West Whiteland >> The unexpected announcement from Sam’s Club Wednesday that it is closing its Exton location drew a large but disappointed crowd to the store Thursday.

“I’ll miss this store a lot,” said Subhash Kumar Baitha, who runs a Lukoil gas station in West Chester. “It will be missed a lot by small businesses in this area. I guess maybe I’ll go to BJ’s or Costco.”

According to those shopping Thursday and comments on social media sites, the store closed unexpectedly Wednesday as news was announced to employees that it would be permanently closing June 30.

The company confirmed the news Thursday. A flier being handed out at the store encouraged members to visit the Sam’s Club in Willow Grove once the Exton store closes next week.

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“After a careful and thoughtful review process, we’ve made the difficult but important decision to close our Exton, PA, Sam’s Club location effective June 30, 2017,” said the statement emailed by Tara Raddohl in corporate communications at Walmart. “We continually review our company portfolio to make sure we are best positioned to achieve our long-term strategy. We are grateful to our members and the community who have given us the privilege of serving them.”

Raddohl said around 120 employees will be affected by the closing. They will receive 60 days’ pay and will be considered for openings at other Walmart-owned locations, the spokeswoman added.

Only one other store – in Illinois – will close as part of the review at Sam’s Club, said Raddohl, who attributed the action “to a number of factors.” She declined to elaborate.

Several of those loading groceries and household items into their cars in the Sam’s Club parking lot Thursday said it was a shame the area was losing another store, pointing across the parking lot to a vacant former Circuit City building in Main Street at Exton where the soon-to-be-closed Sam’s Club is located.

“I’ve been coming here since it opened 15 years ago,” said Dale Rowland of Coatesville. “I raised my kids off this store.”

Rowland said employees told him the store, which is next to a Walmart, wasn’t profitable.

“I’ll definitely miss this store,” Rowland said. “I came in here every week, sometimes twice a week. Everybody here was real friendly - the managers, the greeters. I won’t go to Willow Grove, that’s too far. I guess I’ll go to BJ’s (a member wholesale store with a location near Downingtown), but it probably won’t be the same.”

Angie McAfee of Exton also said she was a fan of the store as she loaded her car with items for a party she was having Thursday night.

“I’m totally going to miss it,” McAfee said. “We have a pool, and have parties, and I would always come here to get food for the parties. It’s a mad house in there today. It’s right down the road, so I’ll really miss it.”

Another woman said she could get things at the Sam’s Club that she couldn’t find at other stores, such as Folger’s coffee, “great fish” and “the best pork chops around.”

“My husband is going to be very upset,” said Karen of Glenmoore, who declined to give her last name. “You look over there and see the Circuit City sitting empty - it’s corporate that’s doing it. You have people making big money to know what to put in it to make it profitable. It’s just a shame. I bet you BJs is happy right now. They’re probably having a party down there.”

The Exton Region Chamber of Commerce sent out a message thanking the club and its employees for all of the support it gave to the chamber over 15 years.

“The Club and its employees were champions of the Exton Region Chamber of Commerce and its members and we are sorry to see them go,” the chamber statement read. “When asked how the Exton Chamber of Commerce could help, General Manager Alex Guistizia asked if we would spread the word about the amazing associates who will be losing their jobs and are eager and able to work. If any businesses are looking for exceptional associates, the Sam’s Club breakroom has been offered to leave applications or information about employment opportunities. Anyone looking for great associates is encouraged to drop information off or provide the details to the chamber and we will forward the information.

“The Exton Region Chamber of Commerce will miss its partnership with Sam’s Club and wish the associates the best in their future place of business.”

A West Whiteland resident, Dave Lanute, said the news caught him off guard.

“I’m really surprised that Sam’s Club is closing. My wife (Beth) and I shopped there weekly for a variety of items, everything from food to cleaning supplies to pool chemicals. Beth is really upset it’s closing. The business I work for also shopped at Sam’s for a variety of items on a regular basis. The store always seemed to be busy, especially on weekends and around holidays.

“And with the planned development of over 400 apartment units in the Main Street area, I would think a retail business like Sam’s would want to maintain their presence there,” Lanute said. “I’m curious to learn whether Walmart will expand into the space and become another of their Super Walmarts. If not, it becomes another big box store vacancy in Exton. The former Circuit City store across the street still sits empty after several years. I guess we’ll be shopping at BJ’s in Downingtown on a regular basis now.”

– To contact Business Editor Brian McCullough, call 610-235-2655 or send an email to bmccullough@dailylocal.com.