By KATHY GIBBONS, firstname.lastname@example.org
TRAVERSE CITY — Aldi begins its expansion into northern Lower Michigan with a new store in Traverse City
The discount grocer operates 56 other stores in Michigan and more than 1,200 nationwide. Aldi originated in Germany, and got its U.S. start with a location in Iowa in 1936.
A grand opening for the new store in the former Circuit City building at 3123 S. Airport Road West is set for Monday.
Aldi Director of Operations J.T. Branneman said the company's decision to open in Traverse City comes in response to interest from the public here. Aldi also expects to expand to other communities around the north.
"We're in the process of hopefully by the end of next year having stores in Big Rapids and Cadillac, and we're looking at other areas of opportunity once we get those other stores up and rolling," Branneman said.
Garfield Township records show Aldi bought the building in June for $1.15 million. Township Supervisor Chuck Korn said the company quickly moved to renovate and get ready for Monday's opening.
Customers unfamiliar with the Aldi brand will find it stocks approximately 1,400 items, all private-label. The company may add some local items.
"We don't have that many choices of types of items," Branneman said. "If you're looking for a bottle of ketchup, we have one choice for that. You won't find a deli counter or bakery, but we do have a lot of those items prepackaged. It's all about saving money."
Branneman said prices are between 40 and 50 percent lower than at other grocers. A gallon of milk goes for $1.69, for example. And the company touts the quality of its products by offering a guarantee of money back or replacement.
Branneman's favorites at Aldi are its chocolate and chocolate chip cookies.
"We bring in a lot of German chocolate," he said. "And also at this time of year we have a lot of specialty cheeses and candies for the holidays."
Between 20 and 25 full- and part-time employees will work at the approximately 10,000-square-foot store, which will have a public ribbon cutting Monday at 9 a.m. Aldi will open then for shopping and product sampling with a chance to enter an onsite sweepstakes. Hours will be 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Sunday.
Korn said Aldi's presence "is a good thing" for a site that housed a series of temporary tenants since Circuit City closed in 2005.
"It's always better to have a building full than empty," he said, adding, "I do think the economy's coming around."