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Aldi makes its debut in Lakewood Ranch

The popular supermarket chain store had to clear a final Sarasota County inspection to open.


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(Editor's note: This story was updated after the store opened Thursday afternoon)

 

The wait was just slightly longer.

Those who expected to shop at Aldi on its opening day in Lakewood Ranch on Thursday were delayed just a bit.

An Aldi representative said the store was waiting for Sarasota County to complete a final inspection before it could open. Before the day could end, though, the store was serving customers.

Although those waiting early to get into the new store had to wait a big longer, they said that was OK.

"I've been waiting for it for months," said Sarasota's Natalie Fletcher, who has shopped at Aldi stores throughout the region. "Everything is very well priced, the produce is always fresh, the cashiers are friendly, and the stock people are friendly."

The new store is located at 7214 University Parkway.

"We're very happy to see (Aldi) open this close," said Sam Chen of Bridgewater, who said he has been shopping on the Aldi west of the interstate on State Road 70.

Aldi declined an interview, but the store provided text attributed to Vice President Matt Thon.

"Saving customers money has been at the core of the Aldi business for decades," Thon wrote. "We’re uniquely positioned to help keep costs as low as possible because our innovative business model is rooted in simplicity.”

Thon also wrote the brand is currently growing, with 150 new stores on track to open by the end of this year. One of those stores will be on State Road 64, just west of Lakewood Ranch.

Thon wrote that visitors to the Lakewood Ranch store can expect a shopping experience similar to what is found in other Aldi locations. He said a typical store, including the Lakewood Ranch location, is 12,000 square feet or less, and called this layout part of the company’s “formula for success,” stating it makes Aldi stores “much easier to navigate than traditional grocery stores.”

On the shelves, customers will find primarily Aldi exclusive brands, with offerings to suit various diets including gluten-free and plant-based items, and dairy alternatives. Thon also wrote the store sells the "most popular" versions of food items, rather than having multiple aisles devoted to the same item. He said that this product assortment avoids overwhelming shoppers.

Seafood offerings are available as well, which Thon wrote are sustainably sourced by a third party. He wrote the store works with the Ocean Disclosure Project in order to make the origins of wild-caught seafood visible to customers.

Thon wrote that fresh produce sourced from top growers is delivered to stores daily, with seasonal offerings available as well. He wrote that stores will source locally when possible, based on availability and demand, and that customers can look for the “Fresh from Florida” logo to find items sourced from within the state.

Shelves within the stores are also stocked with the products still inside their larger shipping packages.

The self-return cart system is used to incentivize shoppers to return shopping carts. Shoppers must insert a quarter into carts to unlock them, and then will need to return the carts into place in order to retrieve the quarter, reducing the tasks to be performed by staff members.

According to Thon, most Aldi stores, including the Lakewood Ranch location, are able to be run on a staff of 15 to 20 people.

The store, smaller than many supermarkets, consists of approximately 12,000 square feet of retail space.
The store, smaller than many supermarkets, consists of approximately 12,000 square feet of retail space.

Chen said milk and eggs are reasonably priced. However, he said he visits the store for rare European items inspired by Aldi's German origins, including meats, cheeses, and canned meats.

"We go to Europe and we are exposed to those cultures and foods," he said. "We really like it, and once we come back, it's nice to find they have those foods over here."

Country Club's Lucille Carbone said she looks forward to deals on the store's cheeses. She highlighted the fresh vegetables and fish as among her favorite items.

"In Florida, you need more than one grocery store," Carbone said. "You go where your needs are met, and this will definitely be a part of mine."

Summerfield Hollow's Dave Hurwitch said he will keep checking to see when the store opens.

"It offers a good alternative to some of the higher priced locations around, because they they do have good values, and we certainly use some of their products," he said. "We don't do all our shopping here, but we have always done some of it at Aldi."

Cresswind's Rekha Shah said as a vegetarian, Aldi has been a primary source of fresh produce for her including organic spinach, fruits, and vegetables.

Thon wrote Aldi aims to make a positive contribution to the community outside of the store, by giving back both locally and nationally through donations, volunteer efforts by staff, and collaborations with nonprofit organizations. 

 

 

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