By RICHARD F. BELISLE
8:18 PM EST, January 24, 2013
As soon as the ribbon dropped Thursday morning, shoppers began cramming the aisles of the new ALDI’s Food Market off Edwin Miller Boulevard. For many of them it was their first look at a different grocery shopping experience.
The new 10,000-square-foot store at 32 Triamigas Drive joins the 1,200-store chain that stretches across 32 states from the East Coast to Kansas, said Katie Kowalczk, director of operations in the company’s divisional headquarters in Frederick, Md. The company originated in Germany in the 1920s as Albrecht Discount. “The name ALDI is derived from the first two letters in both names,” Kowalczk said.
The company has more than 12,000 employees in the U.S., including the 10 hired to work in the new Martinsburg store.
Kowalczk said employees who work at least 20 hours a week are considered to be full-time. Their benefit package includes medical insurance with dental and vision, paid vacation and a 401K program, she said.
Store managers wear blue shirts, cashiers, who sit at their registers, wear green ones.
Another ALDI tradition deals with the way the stores handle grocery carts. Lined up in rows near the front door, customers have to insert a quarter to use them. They get their quarter back when the cart is returned to the rack. Kowalczk said the system saves money by eliminating the need for a parking lot attendant. “The savings goes back to the customer through lower prices,” she said.
ALDI charges customers 10 cents for a plastic grocery bag; six cents for paper. “It encourages them to bring their own bag which saves them money,” Kowalczk said.
According to company literature, by stocking mostly company brands customers save up to 50 percent on more than 1,400 items.
Customers such as Doug and Joy Mosher of Martinsburg attest to Kowalczk’s claims on price and quality.
“At first my concept about this store was that it was low quality,” Doug Mosher said. “I tell you right now, it’s not.”
“We shop at the ALDI in Hagerstown, but now we can shop here and save money on gas,” Joy Mosher said.
“The produce here is so fresh,” she said. “Last week I bought a cucumber and it tasted like it came right out of the garden.”
Susan Bledsoe of Martinsburg likes the prices at ALDI.
Teresa Elliott of Martinsburg was pushing a cart through one of ALDI’s wide aisles Thursday morning. The cart was nearly full.
“I usually shop (at another store), but the prices at ALDI are better and there’s more variety. Sometimes I go to ALDI in Charles Town, but now I’ll come here. It’s closer to home.”
A comparison of prices Thursday between the company’s Martinsburg store and the one in Charles Town, W.Va., which opened in the fall of 2008, shows some differences.
A dozen eggs in Martinsburg cost 99 cents; a gallon of milk, $1.99. Eggs and milk in Charles Town were, respectively, $1.35 and $2.79. A loaf of store brand white bread in Martinsburg was $1.29. In Charles Town, it was 85 cents. Wheat bread, at $1.89, cost 20 cents more in Charles Town.
A box of fresh blueberries was $3.49 in Martinsburg and $2.49 in Charles Town.
Kowalczk explained that local store managers are given some discretion on pricing certain items.
“ALDI opened its first American store in Iowa in 1976,” she said. “The company will build from 50 to 80 new stores this year.”
ALDI has 21 warehouses including one in Frederick.
The Tri-State area ALDI stores are in Hagerstown, Chambersburg, Pa., Frederick and Charles Town.
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