Santa — make that Sam’s Club — comes to Elgin
By Mike Danahey firstname.lastname@example.org August 29, 2012 12:36PM
Mark Graziano, (center) a VP at Terri Lynn, Inc. Quality Foods out of Elgin, has a laugh with Chiquita Bannana mascot Ben-nanas (left) at the new Sam's Club that opened Wednesday on Randall Road in Elgin. Local businesses like Terri Lynne were invited to the new store to offer their product and have a chance to have their product sold at the Sam’s Club store. Sam's Club offers members savings on merchandise, members-only services and benefits. The new Elgin location is the 29th Sam’s Club location in Illinois, including more than 20 in the greater Chicago area and the first in the “City in the Suburbs.” Approximately 190 new jobs were created in Elgin with the opening of the new store. August 29, 2012 | Michael Smart~Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 1, 2012 5:08PM
ELGIN — Local leaders, a deejay, a beauty queen and the Larkin High School marching band joined 190 Sam’s Club associates to celebrate the official grand opening of the 1000 S. Randall Road location Wednesday morning.
While nobody played or sang “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” there was a holiday mood about the gathering and anticipation — anticipation not of lots of toys and goodies in a sleigh, but of what the retailer’s seemingly benevolent business model will be bringing to Elgin.
For the city, where unemployment stood at 9.4 percent in July, the opening means 190 more jobs in town, half of them full-time and 187 of them given to Elgin residents.
Those hired include Zhennie Graf. Graf had worked at the Sam’s Batavia location as a new-business representative for a time, was let go in January 2010, and is now working the membership desk in Elgin.
Graf’s husband is unemployed and has been looking for a new job for two years. He was a projectionist for the Loews Cinema chain and was downsized as technology changed and the company merged with AMC. Zhennie Graf had been working part-time at the Elgin Meijer store and the Golden Corral restaurant, but Meijer let her go because she couldn’t give the store enough of her weekend hours because of having the second job, leaving her with the one job.
While some locals get jobs, the city also is set to reap millions in tax dollars past the opening. Elgin city staff has projected that the Sam’s Club, the adjacent Walmart (owned by the same parent company), and outlots on the 73-acre site off Randall and Bowes roads will generate about $40 million in tax dollars over 15 years.
Early next year, a Portillo’s will open on the Sam’s lot, and the restaurant chain has estimated that will generate $7.2 million in revenue from the Elgin restaurant in 2013, while employing 120 people in various capacities. The city would collect $162,000 in sales tax from Portillo’s revenue.
As for Sam’s Club, “(It) will not only bring employment opportunities to our residents, but they have also already shown a desire to take an active role in the community by becoming a sponsor of the Labor Day iFest,” Mayor David Kaptain stated in a press release.
For nonprofits, Sam’s Club already has given grants to a number of Elgin-area organizations including the YWCA of Elgin, which received $20,000 that it will use to buy technology for youth programming.
“We’re truly lucky to be getting this money,” YWCA CEO Julia McClendon said.
The Elgin Sam’s Club also will be making regular product donations to the Northern Illinois Food Bank, which serves about 36,000 people in Kane County. The program is part of a partnership between Sam’s Club and Feeding America.
The Elgin Sam’s Club is the 29th in Illinois. Among its wide array of offerings, the 140,000-square-foot store holds a pharmacy open to members and the public, featuring $4 and $10 generic prescriptions and savings on branded prescription as well as free monthly health screenings for members and nonmembers.
The screenings come from Florida-based CIA Health Screening and are offered every second Saturday of the month from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m., but for November and December, with a different set available each time. (More details are at SamsClub.com/healthyliving.)
Sam’s holds “road shows” and “showcase events” at its stores that feature not only big national companies such as Sutter Homes Winery from Napa Valley but also local entrepreneurs, giving them a chance to get their products before the big crowds that shop the clubs.
Janet and Jim Schwab started their own Italian bakery business, Cookies Fresco, in Elmhurst about three years ago. The couple said Scott Sannito, general manager of the Northlake Sam’s, came into the shop one day, loved the goods and said he would like to carry some of their line in that location.
That led to the couple negotiating with the company, and the Elgin opening marks the launch this week of Sam’s carrying their lemon ricotta cookies, not only in Elgin but at four other stores in the Chicago market.
“For us this means success, recognition and pride,” Jim Schwab said.
Joanne Shields of Algonquin left her job as an engineer at AT&T four years ago to pursue a dream of having her own food-related business, Simply Appetizers. On Wednesday, she was at a table at the Elgin Sam’s giving out samples of her line of salsas, with bottles stacked high next to her display.
Shields made an online submission to Sam’s, which led to her being considered for in-store events. While the product is not carried in the club currently, the Elgin store is selling her salsa during its opening promotions in a sort of consignment arrangement, Shields said.
A similar arrangement has worked out well for Terri Lynn Quality Foods of Elgin, a family-owned and -operated ingredient supplier that has been in business since 1936. Mark Graziano, company vice president of sales and marketing, said Terri Lynn had already been supplying Sam’s Clubs in Mexico with pecans sold in 2-pound bags under a house label.
A friend who is a district manager for Sam’s approached him about getting the Terri Lynn line of snack mixes into the road shows, Graziano said, and that has led to an agreement where they will be sold in the 20 Sam’s Clubs in the Chicago market.
As such, Graziano said Terri Lynn could wind up adding up to 50 more people to its current staff of 150.
Of course, Sam’s Club means bargains for members and free samples of all sorts, from cheese, to sausages, to banana drinks being touted by a sort-of-superhero Chiquita Banana man were available Wednesday.
The deals included regular unleaded gas at the adjacent station for $3.93, which was considerably less than the $4.20 or so at most area pumps.
“It’s nice to have this closer to home,” Stacia Carlson of Elgin said after she checked out Wednesday morning, her cart filled with bulk buys of ramen noodles, facial tissue, and pita chips — with her sons Noah, 9 months, and Braden, 4, along for the trip.
Carlson had been traveling to the Sam’s in Batavia. And some of the pita chips were for her mother downstate.
“We’ll be bringing these with us when we visit,” Carlson said. “She loves them, and they don’t have them in the Sam’s store in Springfield.”