Starke set to get Wal-Mart Supercenter


Published: Friday, January 21, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 21, 2005 at 12:11 a.m.
Starke officials and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. have inked a deal for a 157,000-square-foot Wal-Mart Supercenter to be located a short distance from the company's current discount store on U.S. 301, just south of Starke.
The deal includes having the store and its 25-plus acres annexed by the city of Starke upon completion, because the giant retailer wants city sewer and water services.
Construction is to begin in February or March, with completion about 10 months later, said Glen Wilkins, community affairs manager for Wal-Mart's Southeast Region. Wilkins declined to provide financial details about the project.
The supercenter will be a relocation and expansion of the current 43,000-square-foot store in Starke, Wilkins said, and the staff and store ID number from the smaller store will be transferred to the new supercenter when it is completed. New hires will increase staff count to about 325-350, he added. In addition to the grocery component and other departments, the supercenter will have a tire and lube center, garden center, and gasoline pumps.
"We'll look at the doors opening in early October. The other store will continue to operate until then. We try to make the changes as seamless as possible," Wilkins said.
The additional jobs, sales taxes and ad valorem taxes generated by the supercenter will boost the town's economy, said Starke City Manager Lee Vincent.
"There are pluses and minuses, and one of the pluses will be that Wal-Mart has many more items available for the shoppers in the area. It will be able to draw folks from northeast Alachua County, from Clay County and Union County," Vincent said. "To me, this was a logical location for a supercenter." Nearby counties such as Suwannee, Clay, Columbia and Putnam already have the supercenters, Vincent said.
"I think we will see a significant increase in retail availability in Starke," he said, adding that small businesses will have to think about what they can offer that will not be offered by the supercenter.
When the negotiations with Wal-Mart began about 21 months ago, a few people voiced their concern about the impact of a supercenter on downtown businesses, he said.
"We discussed all of that. Starke is going to change, and we think this is a very positive change," Vincent said.
The supercenter will be built on wooded acreage across the street from Lawrence Mosley's business, Mosley Tire Co. Although he expects the store to have a positive impact on his tire and automotive repair operation, he's concerned about "mom-and-pop" businesses in Starke.
"I think it's the best thing that's ever happened to me. I've been out here 23 years. I think it will increase business for me," Mosley said.
"I think it will have an impact on the small 'mom-and-pop' operations, and will add to the traffic problem."
The North Florida Regional Chamber of Commerce in Starke, which has members in Bradford, Union and southwest Clay counties, sees the coming supercenter as a step forward.
"We think it's a great thing; a kick-off for development starting in Starke, and a resurgence," said Ron Lilly, president and chief executive officer of the organization. "We see a lot of opportunity for other businesses to move in, and even for the businesses here to fine-tune their businesses, step up to the plate and take advantage of the increased traffic."
Doris Chandler can be reached at (352) 374-5094 or chandld@gvillesun.com.

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