Customers attending Wednesday's soft opening of Sam's Club at 6600 44th Ave., Moline, will experience a rare look inside the new prototype in the company's chain of stores.

The 136,000-square-foot "club" opens this morning with members and the general public invited to shop all day prior to Thursday's official opening that includes a ribbon-cutting.

"The new prototype involves our health and wellness set. It expands our footprint," said Aaron Greene, club manager. "We have fresh foods and fresh products and also combining the optical, hearing center and our pharmacy in one area. That is more inviting, and we added an external entrance to our wellness center."

He said this is only the second store in the chain with the new prototype. The first was in Bossier City, La., which opened last week.

Sam’s Club, a division of Wal-Mart, is a membership warehouse club offering products and services in more than 630 clubs across the U.S., as well as in Brazil, China and Mexico.

Greene said the store employs 184 people, about half of whom work full time.

A tour of the new store showed rows and rows of everything from toys and TVs to groceries, fresh meats, jewelry, shoes, furniture, clothes and bikes.

"We are definitely excited to see this open on the Illinois side of the river," said Ray Forsythe, planning and development director for the city of Moline. "And the other advantage is all those new jobs."

He said when Menards built a new store nearby a couple of years ago, it "put in the streets, sewer and water, to support the entire project."

He said he expects more retail and other development to occur in that area. Menard's owns much of the land in that vicinity.

As employees kept busy Tuesday getting ready for the opening, many people stopped in to join Sam's Club, a requirement to shop there.

"I just joined and wanted to just be able to come buy bigger bulk items," said Lindsay Casper of Moline. "I never had a membership on the Iowa side, so this is not too far from me."

Dawn Lewis of Geneseo also just joined.

"I have been to Sam's before in other cities and I am just glad this is close to Geneseo, and I am a shopaholic," she said, smiling. "Some things I will buy in bulk, but there are also meats, jewelry and things for Christmas gifts, and lots of food items I don't see in other stores."