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Suffolk Lidl opens doors

Suffolk welcomed its first Lidl grocery store with a ribbon cutting ceremony on Thursday, after which the grocer greeted its first 100 customers early in the morning.

Customers enjoyed live music and fanfare as they waited for the doors to open at the new Harbour View Boulevard location. Each customer received a wooden coin for a chance to win up to $100 in Lidl gift cards while taking advantage of the special grand-opening sales that will last into the weekend.

Windsor resident Deborah Jones was awarded as the store’s first customer in line.

“Their prices are low,” she said. “I’ll go to Lidl once, maybe twice a week.”

One of the largest grocery chains in Europe, Lidl established its U.S. headquarters in Arlington County in 2015 before expanding outward. The new Suffolk store marks the sixth location to open in Hampton Roads.

“We are proud to be part of this vibrant city,” said Ashley Peace, Lidl U.S. director of real estate.

The store’s retail space — 20,000 square feet — is designed for maximum efficiency, Peace said. Shoppers navigate just six aisles of open space illuminated with the help of natural lighting from expansive windows.

Public relations specialist Jessica Haggard explained how staff count the number of steps needed to restock items. Produce is organized in the boxes it arrived in to help staff ensure freshness for customers.

“They’re not going to take home a bruised apple or a piece of stale bread,” Haggard said.

About 90 percent of Lidl products are store brands, while others are provided by community business partners. A rotating selection of non-food items will offer shoppers everything from clothes to kitchen appliances.

Haggard described how their low prices will have a ripple effect for surrounding businesses.

“You’ll see that the prices around here will drop significantly,” she said. “Even if you don’t shop at Lidl, we’re bringing down prices in the community.”

Customers wasted no time enjoying free food samples and filling their shopping carts Thursday morning.

“They’ve got a variety of things in here,” said Chesapeake resident Tina Almond.

The growing Harbour View population is expected to support further retail growth. Mayor Linda Johnson, who cut the ribbon alongside other city and company officials, praised the store as another alternative for North Suffolk shoppers.

“It’s a very exciting time, and it’s a wonderful addition to our city,” Johnson said.

Councilman Lue Ward was excited about how the store fits into the retail growth on Harbour View Boulevard. He said residents will not have to go far to shop.

“We want it right here for you in the palm of your hand,” he said.