Aldi opens up a unique shopping experience in Camden

 

 A long line of customers wait for the opening of the new Aldi store in Camden on Thursday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

A long line of customers wait for the opening of the new Aldi store in Camden on Thursday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

CAMDEN — There were several reasons why Joanna Miller woke up at 4:30 in the morning to go stand in line for three hours in front of Aldi, a discount grocery store that celebrated its grand opening on Thursday morning.

First off, the store — located at 390 Walmart Drive, behind the Texas Roadhouse in Camden — was offering Golden Tickets to the first 100 customers in line, which were Aldi gift cards of varying amounts up to $100.

The store also rewarded one lucky customer with free produce for a year and gave away samples of many of its products.

However, the biggest reason Ms. Miller got in line so early was because she was searching for a possible new favorite grocery store close to home.

“I wasn’t sure what time to get here so I figured six would be a good time and when I rolled in there was nobody else here,” said Ms. Miller, of Dover, who was first in line at Aldi’s grand opening. “So I brought my chair, I brought my book and met some neat people just hanging out chatting.

“They have some unique things that Dover doesn’t have. It’s a smaller store which is nice, because WalMart is so big and you go in and it’s overwhelming. I like the fact that they make their own food, it’s a lot of their own brands, and I’ve heard the produce is really awesome and I’ve been disappointed with the produce I’ve been getting lately.”

Camden mayor Justin King cuts the ribbon at the new Aldi store in Camden on Thursday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Camden mayor Justin King cuts the ribbon at the new Aldi store in Camden on Thursday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Camden’s Aldi opened simultaneously with another store in Middletown, which became the first entities of the German-based supermarket chain to open in Delaware. Aldi currently operates nearly 1,600 stores in 35 states.

Camden Mayor Justin King ceremoniously cut the ribbon just after 8:45 a.m. to open the store before hundreds of shoppers made their way inside its entrance, which featured an archway of balloons in the stores’ orange, blue and yellow colors.

“We’re very excited,” Mr. King said. “We had an awesome turnout and couldn’t be happier. We’re glad to have any commercial development in Camden. This is a nice operation.”

It’s definitely a different operation that focuses squarely on efficiency and keeping its costs low to consumers.

Aldi is a scaled-down shopping experience. Its’ no-frills approach features open carton displays, which includes its own private-label brand rather than more familiar nationally known products.

The Miller family, from left, Mark, Joanna and Cade, 2, were the first customers to enter the new Aldi store in Camden on Thursday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

The Miller family, from left, Mark, Joanna and Cade, 2, were the first customers to enter the new Aldi store in Camden on Thursday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Tom Fangras, director of store operations at the Camden Aldi, said that by offering its own high quality brand of products it allows the customer to enjoy a much lower price at checkout.

“What we’re excited for is we have our exclusive products, basically our brand of products that we offer, and it’s basically 50 percent lower price than the national brand in general,” Mr. Fangras said. “So we have a lot to offer with our products. We’re definitely very proud of our fine offerings.

“Plus, if anyone buys our food and they aren’t satisfied we have a double-back guarantee, so we’ll replace the product and give the customer their money back.”

Mr. Fangras said the store is also excited about the healthier food options that it offers, including more organic produce, gluten-free products and other items made without additives or MSG.

Aldi was giving away eco-friendly shopping bags on Thursday. The store encourages its shoppers to bring their own bags and asks them to bag their own goods.

Even the grocery carts are designed with efficiency in mind.

To get a shopping cart, a shopper has to put a quarter in the cart, shop and then return the cart to get the quarter back, which helps to keep prices low because the store doesn’t have to spend time retrieving carts.

Mr. Fangras said his store has about 15 employees and as long as part-time employees work 25 hours a week they get full benefits, including dental, and they are eligible to participate in the company’s 401(k) plan.

Aldi plans to add an average of 130 new stores across the country each year. Each will stress efficiency and convenience, just like the one in Camden.

There was definitely excitement in the air as customers waited for the new store to open.

“I couldn’t believe that the line stretched all the way around the corner before the store opened,” Mr. Fangras said. “It definitely is something that gets you pumped up. I think they’ll find we have a lot to offer.

“Here, customers can get a quick parking spot close to the store, come in and go through the aisles and then get out of here. It’s a nice quick and efficient shopping experience for our customers.”

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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