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.