Region’s first Aldi opens

Published 9:04 pm Monday, December 7, 2015

Sonny Wiggins, of Portsmouth, with his wife Kathy behind him, checks out a can of pie filling in the newly opened Aldi, in Portmouth.

Sonny Wiggins, of Portsmouth, with his wife Kathy behind him, checks out a can of pie filling in the newly opened Aldi, in Portsmouth.

At the new Aldi supermarket in Churchland, customers have to bag their own purchases — either in grocery sacks brought from home or reusable ones bought at checkout. They have to pay a quarter to get a grocery cart, refundable upon the cart’s return.

But even the self-service aspects of this deep-discount supermarket, which opened its first Hampton Roads store at 5811 W. High St. on Dec. 3, could not keep the crowds away.

More than 1,400 customers turned out for the grand opening, according to division vice president Jeff Baehr.

Email newsletter signup

The store, located on the Portsmouth side of Churchland, is the first of several the German-owned company expects to open locally during the next year. Aldi has 22 stores in Virginia, most in the northern part of the state, but it has ambitious plans to open stores in Williamsburg, Virginia Beach, Chesapeake and Newport News in 2016, said division vice president Jeff Baehr.

The supermarket company plans to open 650 new stores nationwide during the next five years, and company officials expect to have 2,000 stores by 2018, Baehr said.

Aldi’s reputation is staked on deep discounts offered on its own brands and its small stores, particularly when compared to today’s super centers. The Portsmouth location is 10,000 square feet and has only five aisles.

Sonny and Kathy Wiggins, first-time shoppers at Aldi on Monday, said they appreciate the store’s discount prices and selection,

“I’m 70 and looking at retirement next year,” Sonny Wiggins said. “I’m looking at everything that can save us money … and their prices seem reasonable.”

They also have a good selection of gluten-free options, Kathy Wiggins added.

Aldi’s sells only the most commonly purchased grocery items, most of which are company brands, Baehr said. Smaller inventory means smaller stores, with lower operating expenses, all of which translates into more savings for customers, he said.

Aldi also accepts only cash, debit and EBT cards, in order to avoid costly credit card fees.

All of Aldi’s cost-saving efforts — small inventories, small buildings, store brands, not supplying bags — translate into savings of about 50 percent for consumers, according to the company’s website.