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Just a grocery store? ALDI grand opening draws a crowd

BAXTER—About 300 enthusiastic shoppers formed a line snaking through the parking lot outside the new ALDI grocery store in Baxter on a brisk Thursday morning.

Shoppers rush into the new ALDI store Thursday in Baxter. Doors opened at 9 a.m., but customers began arriving for the chance at a $100 gift certificate as early as 6:30 a.m. (Brainerd Dispatch/ Steve Kohls)
Reminiscent of a Black Friday sale, shoppers rush into the new ALDI store Thursday in Baxter. Doors opened at 9 a.m., but customers began arriving for the chance at a $100 gift certificate as early as 6:30 a.m. (Brainerd Dispatch/ Steve Kohls)
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BAXTER—About 300 enthusiastic shoppers formed a line snaking through the parking lot outside the new ALDI grocery store in Baxter on a brisk Thursday morning.

The store, located at 14620 Dellwood Drive, opened its doors for the first time, offering the first 100 customers a gift certificate for either $10, $25 or $100 worth of groceries.

Shoppers came from communities as distant as Pine River and Garrison to check out the offerings at the store, many hoping to find deals on groceries that fit within their budgets.

"When you're on a limited income and you have a good deal going, you get it," said Esther Rosier of Brainerd while she waited for doors to open.

Mary Carlson of Staples was the first to arrive about 6:30 a.m., two-and-a-half hours before the opening. She said she's been looking forward to the opening of the store for quite some time. Ticket No. 100 was assigned shortly after 8 a.m. and the 100-spot parking lot was full with another 75-80 cars overflowing into the northwest corner of Target's lot by 8:30 a.m.

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Devaney and Reuben Anderson, holders of ticket No. 4, huddled under a heat lamp set up near the front of the line. The pair said they showed up for the chance at free groceries.

Midway through the line, Jemi Enns of Brainerd waited with her 5-year-old, 3-year-old and 4-month-old children. She said she'd been waiting a half-hour for the opening and was attracted to the store's low-cost options, particularly the selection of snacks. Several shoppers mentioned the store's produce as a particular draw.

Some of those in line were disappointed numbers were handed out as early as they were for the chance at gift certificates. Matt Lilla, ALDI vice president of the Faribault division, said the store's grand opening advertisement stated the company would offer the certificates to the first 100 customers but did not state a specific time. When those customers began arriving early in the morning, he said they wanted to reward enthusiasm without requiring people to stand outside in the cold for a few hours.

"We don't feel it's appropriate to expect that," Lilla said, noting they asked people to wait inside their vehicles instead.

Not everyone was willing to wait in the long line. Tim Voss of Brainerd approached the store shortly after the doors opened, but upon seeing the number of people waiting to enter, decided to come back at a different time.

"This is just a grocery store," Voss said. "They (those in line) know that, right?"

Inside, members of the Baxter City Council and other city employees received a tour of the store before doors opened. Lilla told them the company has been trying to get into the Brainerd lakes area market since 2009 and worked with the Mills companies to make this location happen. Lilla said the company has partnered with Mills in other cities as well, including Fergus Falls and Alexandria.

 

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'No frills' for ALDI shoppers

Founded in 1961, ALDI opened its first store in Germany and expanded into the United States in 1976. The company now has more than 1,500 locations nationwide with expansion plans pushing it up to 2,000 stores by 2018. ALDI stores and Trader Joe's grocery stores, located in the metro area and intended to have more a "co-op" feel, are owned by the same company.

The ALDI grocery chain employs what it calls a "no frills" model of shopping, which, according to its website, keeps costs down for consumers.

Customers must bring their own bags or purchase reusable ones at checkout. To use a cart, customers "rent" it for a quarter, receiving the quarter back upon return of the cart.

Store sizes are smaller than typical grocery stores since the company stocks what it describes as the most commonly purchased grocery items, most of which are private-label offerings. Hours of the stores are limited to prime shopping times to keep labor costs down, the company states. Hours at the Baxter store will be from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.

Lilla reported Friday the Baxter location saw 1,700 orders checked out on its first day, meaning between 2,000 and 3,000 people visited the store.

"It was a great grand opening for us," Lilla said. "We were very pleased with the reception from the community and we're very optimistic about the future of the store in the Baxter market."

--- Correction Monday, Dec. 7, 2015 ---

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In a story in Sunday’s Brainerd Dispatch, it was incorrectly reported that ALDI does not accept credit cards.

Although this is the case in some states, ALDI stores in Minnesota -- including the Baxter location -- do accept credit cards for payment.

This online article has been modified to reflect the correction. The Dispatch regrets the error.

---   ---

 

CHELSEY PERKINS may be reached at 218-855-5874 or chelsey.perkins@brainerddispatch.com . Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchChelsey .

 

Mary Carlson of Staples was the first customer to arrive for the grand opening of the Baxter ALDI grocery store Thursday. She also was one of 10 customers who received $100 in gift certificates to use at the store. Steve Kohls/Brainerd Dispatch
Mary Carlson of Staples was the first customer to arrive for the grand opening of the Baxter ALDI grocery store Thursday. She also was one of 10 customers who received $100 in gift certificates to use at the store. Steve Kohls/Brainerd Dispatch

Related Topics: ALDI
Chelsey Perkins is the community editor of the Brainerd Dispatch. A lakes area native, Perkins joined the Dispatch staff in 2014. She is the Crow Wing County government beat reporter and the producer and primary host of the "Brainerd Dispatch Minute" podcast.
Reach her atchelsey.perkins@brainerddispatch.comor218-855-5874and find @DispatchChelsey on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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