German grocer ALDI to anchor Veterans Parkway shopping center

A Germany-based discount grocery store chain called ALDI, with its emphasis on frugality and bottom-line prices for shoppers, is landing in the Columbus area before the end of this year.

The 18,000-square-foot supermarket will be an anchor for a 65,900-square-foot strip shopping center being built at 6301 Veterans Parkway. That’s adjacent to CarMax and across from Northside Medical Center and The Hughston Clinic.

“I actually did the very first ALDI that went into Florida” about 10 years ago, real-estate broker Wes Lewis said Tuesday. “I did the very first one that they had in Orlando, Fla., and when I got here I reached out to them. They had just started doing some things in Atlanta, and have gotten a pretty good presence up there, and finally have wanted to expand.

Lewis, also senior vice president and asset manager with Columbus-based Adams Brokerage Co., is spearheading development of the shopping center being built on property that many years ago was home to a Lowe’s home improvement store, followed by Bill Heard and Legacy vehicle sales lots.

ALDI is leasing the land upon which it will build its grocery store. Construction should start in April, Lewis said, with hopes to have the entire shopping center completed and its tenants up and running before the end of this year.

ALDI has been issued a building permit from the city of Columbus, with a construction price tag of nearly $1.6 million. Pound Construction of Columbus is the general contractor.

The grocer, in a statement from Thom Behtz, its division vice president in Jefferson, Ga., just northeast of Atlanta, said the Columbus store will open in the second half of this year. It will have about 10 employees.

Behtz said the new store will use about 10,000 square feet of the 18,000 square feet it is constructing for display space, with four to five “uncluttered” aisles spaced 8 feet apart, spacious checkouts and “pricing prominently displayed.” The overall design will include “high ceilings, better lighting and environmentally friendly building materials such as energy-saving refrigeration and light bulbs.”

The differences between ALDI and competitors don’t stop there. Its website says store shoppers must bring their own bags or purchase reusable ones on site. Those wanting a shopping cart must put a quarter in a machine, then get it back when finished shopping; that keeps from requiring staff to retrieve carts. And credit cards aren’t accepted; they only take cash, debit and electronic benefit transfer cards.

“Everything we do from our smaller, energy-saving stores to recycled bags and cartons capture the very essence of conservation. As a result, you can save up to 50 percent on the majority of your needs,” the grocer’s website says, pointing out it offers more than 1,300 items for sale rather than as many as 30,000 items at typical supermarkets. Many of its products are ALDI’s own brands.

At its north Columbus location, ALDI will compete with nearby Winn-Dixie and Walmart’s supercenter and Sam’s Club. Publix is not far away on Bradley Park Drive. The company would not say if it plans more ALDI locations in the Columbus market.

The chain, founded in 1942 by the late German brothers Karl and Theo Albrecht (ALDI is short for “Albrecht Discount”), operates more than 9,000 stores worldwide. That includes nearly 1,400 stores in 32 states in the U.S. The estate of Theo Albrecht also owns the popular Trader Joe’s grocery chain.

As for the balance of the shopping center, Lewis said he has two signed letters of intent and is looking to line up a third. He declined to say what types of tenants they are. The property will include one outparcel. Those are usually reserved for restaurants or banks.

Adams Brokerage is the company that built and leased small centers at Columbus Park Crossing that include Chipotle Mexican Grill, Panda Express, Five Guys Burger and Fries, and LongHorn Steakhouse. It also built strip centers on Veterans Parkway that are home to Bonefish Grill and Visionworks.

A separate project, long planned on Veterans Parkway and adjacent to McAlister’s Deli and Waffle House, is still on hold despite having five executed leases, Lewis said. That’s because the company, aside from those five acres, owns another 35 acres behind that land, with the two parcels separated by a railroad line that sees limited use.

“The good news is most of the tenants we’ve signed leases with have decided they want to hang in there with us and stay on the property that they’ve pre-leased,” said Lewis, who hopes to know if access to cross the rail tracks will be granted later this year. Then he will approach state and city transportation and planning offices.

“So we’re probably 18 months to two years out on that project, realistically,” he said. “We might get it done quicker.”

Names mentioned previously with that center include Huey Luey’s, Cheeseburger Bobby’s, Newk’s Cafe and Uncle Maddio’s Pizza Joint.