COLUMBIA — Cars crowded the parking lot and customers flooded the aisles of the new Aldi grocery store Wednesday afternoon.
“It’s very rare, even for a grand opening at Aldi, for customers to not be able to find a parking spot,” Dave Clark, district manager of Aldi, said. He said the store was down to five of its 100 shopping carts at one point.
How do Aldi's prices compare to other grocery stores' prices?
A gallon of skim milk
Aldi: $ 2.75
3 pounds of red delicious apples
12-pack of Ramen noodles
A loaf of bread
Aldi's whole grain white: $1.29
HyVee's whole grain white: $1.83
Walmart's whole wheat: $1.58
The store moved just more than a mile west, from 711 Business Loop 70 E. to 807 Business Loop 70 W. It palletized the old location's items and moved them from Tuesday night to Wednesday morning. This is the store's third location in Columbia since 1979.
The new store is 15 percent larger than the old building and has open ceilings, which the old building did not have. Mark Bersted, division vice-president for Aldi, said he likes the new building's ceiling because it allows for more natural light. He said the company outgrew its old facility.
Bersted said Columbia is a good market for Aldi and he expects the relocation to be at the top of Aldi's successes.
"We thought it was a good time to bring a new presentation to Aldi," he said. "This is the newest, latest design of any Aldi in the country."
Although the new store will look much different from the old, the prices and quality of products will stay the same, Bersted said.
“Customers are going to get what they’ve always got,” Bersted said. “I think we’re already well known for having the lowest prices in any community grocery store. That’s our feeling.”
Clark said one of the hardest things about the relocation was minimizing the loss of perishable items. But other Aldi district managers were able to help him with the moving process, he said.
Cindy Hicks, who has worked at Aldi since late January, stocked items in one of the new store’s aisles Wednesday. She said she loves the relocation.
“It’s more spacious, and there’s more room, so we’re not going to run out of stock,” she said.
She said she thinks Aldi is what America needs in tough economic times.
“The cost is low enough that people can buy extra and save on gas later,” she said.
Hicks has also been an Aldi customer for 20 years. Before she moved to Columbia from St. Louis, she said she made sure there was an Aldi in the city.
“I was thrilled to hear they were hiring last November,” she said.
As shopper Nia Tate, 23, and her daughter Emma, 1, roamed the store’s aisles, she said she shops at Aldi because it is cheap and affordable.
“It’s bigger. There’s more things here, and there’s more fresh fruit and vegetables,” she said. “It’s in a better location, and it’s where more people go.”
Heather McKay, 34, has shopped at Aldi in Columbia for three years.
“We were joking that this is the dead zone, but this place is packed. It’s cheaper,” McKay said as she picked up a carton of strawberries.
Although the new Aldi is now a mile farther from their house, Judy and Bob Bryant said they will still be shopping there.
“No doubt about that,” Bob Bryant said.
His wife, Judy, said she likes to purchase jarred pickles and olives and other items at Aldi because they come at a good price.
"The main reason we did this was for the customers and hopefully they realize they deserve a good, high-quality store," Clark said.