Grocery items are shelved directly in the product’s cartons or open boxes.
  • Grocery items are shelved directly in the product’s cartons or open boxes.
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Encinitas grocery shoppers are about to get a little more European influence. A design review permit application with the city became public last month, for the opening of an ALDI supermarket. It will be the sixth German-based store opened in San Diego County in the last two years, but the first one along the upper-middle class coastline.

ALDI’s website identifies the chain as “discount grocery.” Grocery items are shelved directly in the product’s cartons or open boxes. Their stores do not have banks, pharmacies, or cash checks.

A few years ago, a friend of German decent, living in Indiana, where the stores are more prevalent, first alerted me about ALDI. I told him last week that ALDIs are mushrooming in his former home of Southern California, he said, "You'll save a lot of money shopping there. They’ll be lower than any other grocery store." He praised ALDI’s “no frills” business model, and said I won’t believe how cheap a quart of milk and a dozen eggs will be. He had just paid 99 cents for each.

Is Encinitas ready for ALDI? Or will this be another out-of–state grocery chain flopping in the highly competitive SoCal grocery market, like the Haggen Foods fiasco?

I interviewed shoppers coming out of the Encinitas Vons on El Camino Real, just one block away from where the new ALDI store will be built, in the now closed Big Lots store.

Nick is from the United Kingdom. ALDI has a huge presence in the UK. He was excited to hear the news.

“They’re a low cost, basic store. Everything is on pallets,” he said. When he was in college, he could buy a can of beans for nine pence (15 cents in U.S. currency.) “Students will love them,” said Nick, but it probably won’t change his shopping habits at Vons and other nearby stores.

From what Vons shopper Anita has already heard about the ALDI chain. “It looks cool,” she said. She looks forward to giving it a try, but only if they sell organic produce.

Yes, says Tom Cindel of ALDI. “ALDI does sell organic products including produce.”

Vons shopper Jordon said she knew ALDI’s secret that most SoCal shoppers don’t. ALDI owns Trader Joe's.

ALDI’s founder, Theo Albrecht, purchased Trader Joe's in 1979. At the time of his passing in 2010, Albrecht was labeled by Forbes Magazine as the 31st richest person in the world. But corporately, a family trust operates ALDI and Trader Joe’s like two separate companies, but using the same model of private label, exclusive in-store brands.

Jeff said he looks forward to checking out ALDI, but “if they are like a Costco (big sizes), then I won’t be shopping there,” he said.

The company has aggressively opened five San Diego County stores since 2016; Chula Vista, Escondido (2), San Carlos, and Vista. Company plans call for 200 new stores across the U.S. by the end of this year, which would make ALDI the country’s third largest grocery store chain (not including department stores that also sell groceries like Walmart, Target, and 99 Cent Stores.)

Neither ALDI's Cindel nor city planning officials could predict how long it will take ALDI to open its doors.

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Visduh July 5, 2018 @ 9:51 a.m.

ALDI is doing some things right, but US shoppers will find that it takes some getting used to it. Close to half the store isn't food, but a variety of hard and soft lines that seems to change week to week. Their ads use more space to feature those non-food specials than the food offerings. Yes, some of their prices are far below those at the legacy, unionized supers and the non-union operations, too. It seems to run two or three meat specials every week, but if you don't get there on Wednesday (preferably in the morning) you won't find them. The fine print in the ad says "while supplies last", and they seldom last all week.

Don't confuse ALDI with Trader Joe's; they may have common ownership, but that's about all they have in common.

Let me alert readers to another food seller that is newly arrived in the county. That's Winco, and anyone who goes there should be pleasantly surprised. Their prices are lower than most, the selection is huge, and the help are helpful. (I bought a half-gallon of their brand of nonfat milk there yesterday for $1.26.) I understand Winco has a second store planned for the county, but I don't remember where specifically. The current one is in San Marcos on San Marcos Blvd, right near the spot where it crosses under 78. Winco and Hobby Lobby split the space vacated by Lowe's a few years ago.


Visduh July 5, 2018 @ 5:52 p.m.

Ken, You might want to run a similar piece on Boise-based and employee-owned Winco.


AlexClarke July 6, 2018 @ 6:16 a.m.

Been there done that. Visduh is right that Aldi is doing some things right but I find that Grocery Outlet is a much better shopping experience.


akg96 March 7, 2019 @ 11:52 p.m.

Grocery Outlet is great but rather small and limited in selection, plus it far away. Winco is huge but limited to an extent, plus they have down-scale items that appeal to those who would do themselves no favors to their life and health. When I asked about tabulli or cous cous, etc. they didn't have a clue because they didn't carry those kind of item - the things I like. They have a huge amount of pizzas, for example, but very few selections, so it's like shopping in a grocery store 30 years ago, like imagine you can only eat food from the 50's. Just the names tell you a lot, like Winco, or Walmart. I love Aldi's. My reaction was both glee, joy and amazement, but also amazement, irritation and alienation from seeing all the great prices that made the Standard American Diet (S.A.D.) regular grocery stores seem ridiculously over-priced. In fact, I'm thinking that the official leader that we elected sabotage them in harrasing and delaying their opening. And really wealthy people go to shop there besides the practical and frugal. And it doesn't take 5 minutes or whatever to simply just walk across to the other side of the store, plus you get out of there quick because don't ponder which brand to fret about to buy. Win, win. Less crowded aisles! And shoppers are happier in Aldi


akg96 March 8, 2019 @ 12:04 a.m.

.... Shoppers are respected by the store (and others shoppers). I think the City of Encinitas hate the idea of allowing"their" residents with desirable shopping experience and great prices. They've delayed it with a vengeance. The building where ALDI's was going in, looks like they just went through a huge earthquake or a war.


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