ALDI coming to town: Construction begins on new grocery store in Willmar
WILLMAR — Site preparation began last week for the new ALDI grocery store at the corner of Fifth Street and 19th Avenue Southeast in Willmar. Tentative grand opening is Dec. 11, said Matt Lilla, vice president at the company’s division office in Faribault.
The building will have just over 17,000 square feet and a sales floor of a little over 10,000 square feet. The parking lot will have about 80 spaces. Customers will enter from 19th Avenue and from Fifth Street.
The city building permit lists the value of the project at $1,000,389. Prime contractor is Dalo Construction of Trip City, Ohio.
The store will carry a number of key national brands that customers have indicated that they’d like to see, such as Cola-Cola, Tide and Charmin, said Lilla.“But 95 percent of the products that we carry and the brands that we have in the store are private label, exclusive brands for ALDI. It’s different than a generic product. It’s not something that’s made for the mass market that’s maybe lower quality or viewed as a generic product,’’ he said.“This is private labeled, exclusive stuff that we develop ourselves. We do all the packaging. We’ve developed the formulations with suppliers. We have things specifically designed for us,’’ he said.ALDI is the world’s ninth largest grocery store company, with 33 stores already operating in Minnesota and three more stores set to open before the Willmar store. Willmar’s store will bring the Minnesota total to 37.A typical ALDI store has from 12 to 15 employees, primarily full time, and they do receive benefits.The store will have fresh bread, a selection of choice beef, chicken and pork, from 75 to 100 produce items at any given time, packaged and frozen goods, cheeses and deli meats, among other items.Lilla said the store will not have a deli or bakery. He said ALDI eliminates those to help reduce operating costs and offer lower prices to customers.Another cost-cutting measure is the company’s 25-cent cart rental charge. Customers pay 25 cents to use a cart and receive their quarter when they return the cart to the store.“The reason we that do is just like everything else we do is to try to save our customers money and offer them the best value that we can,’’ Lilla said. “By putting the quarter rental system on our carts, it keeps us from having to pay someone to retrieve the carts from the parking lot and bring them to the front of the store.’’That way, Lilla said, carts are always available.“If you don’t bring it back, then obviously somebody else who wants the quarter will bring it back for you,’’ he said. “It’s a very neat system. It’s actually used by basically every grocery store in Europe. It’s very common over there. It’s less common here, but it makes a ton of sense and it saves our customers money.’’When selecting a city and a site, ALDI considers traffic patterns, proximity to other retailers and grocery competitors, and convenient access for customers, said Lilla.“When we look at outstate Minnesota, we try to find the regional centers with a number of national retailers that are drawing people in from a large area, and Willmar is certainly one of those areas where there’s a tremendous number of national retailers, and therefore we feel very confident that people will come from 40 or 50 or 60 miles away to do their general shopping needs in Willmar,’’ he said.Last March, the City Council voted to rezone the nearly 2-acre site southeast of the Kandi Mall for the grocery store. Lilla praised the assistance and cooperation provided by city staff who work in community planning and development.“We felt very supported by the city and they’ve been helping us through the entire process,’’ he said. “I can’t say enough good things about the work that we’ve had done with them so far.’’Lilla said the company is expanding to meet customer demand.“We’re very excited to come to the Willmar market and be able to get our store open so customers can check us out,’’ said Lilla. “We think they’re going to be very excited when they come in and see the prices and the quality and the selection that we offer.’’