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Sam's Club will close Palm Harbor store

(ran E edition)

Nearly two years after taking over the Pace Membership Warehouse chain, Sam's Club is giving up the store it acquired here.

The warehouse on the corner of U.S. 19 and Klosterman Road, a Pace outlet until Sam's bought the chain in 1993, will close Dec. 24.

"We have a little saturation problem," assistant manager Maria Bradley said.

After the 1993 deal, Sam's owned eight stores in the Tampa Bay area, including several on U.S. 19. The Palm Harbor store sits midway between locations in Clearwater and New Port Richey, and company officials felt they didn't need so many Sam's on one stretch of road, Bradley said.

All of the 115 employees at Palm Harbor store will get jobs at other area locations, Bradley said. "Everyone here has a strong sense of pride and ownership, and they'll take that with them," she said.

A spokesman for Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which owns Sam's, did not return calls Tuesday.

Customers will have to look elsewhere for warehouse shopping.

"They better not close that store," said Spring Hill resident Patricia Chiasson, who drives past at least one other Sam's on her way to the one in Palm Harbor. "I'd rather they close the other one up there."

Chiasson and her husband, Joe, said the selection is better at the Palm Harbor Sam's store.

"They don't carry enough stuff," Mr. Chiasson said of the other store.

Pauline Guzzardo of Palm Harbor couldn't believe the news that her favorite warehouse grocery store was closing.

"It's a shock," she said. "I can't imagine Sam's Club closing any place. It's so popular all over the country."

Sam's closure will leave a gap in the North Pinellas warehouse shopping market, but the bigger issue is the gap it leaves on the southwest corner of U.S. 19 and Klosterman Road.

"A couple members want to turn it into a disco," Bradley said.

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