Aldi plans two discount grocery stores in west Pasco

PORT RICHEY — Discount grocer Aldi, known for its store brands, 25-cent shopping cart deposits and Wal-Mart-beating prices, is taking its no-frills concept to a second Pasco County location.

The German-owned company recently paid more than $1.5 million for the site of the former Lone Star Steakhouse at 6815 Cinema Drive, county records show.

The company plans to open its prototype 16,000-square-foot store on the site by fall of 2010, around the same time it plans open a similar store at U.S. 19 and Alt. 19 in Holiday, said David Behm, vice president of Aldi's Florida division in Haines City.

"We've done exceptionally well in the Tampa Bay market," Behm said. "A lot of shoppers from the Midwest are familiar with us and are excited to see us coming to the market."

He expects each store will employ about 15 to 20 people, although hiring likely won't begin until summer. Full- and part-time positions start at $10 an hour. Aldi provides health insurance and 401(k) benefits to employees who work more than 20 hours a week.

"These are excellent jobs, with a lot more benefits than most retail offers," he said.

The stores are about the size of a drugstore and employ frugal practices to keep prices low, such as requiring shoppers to put a quarter in a shopping cart to free it from the corral. They get their money back when they return it. The policy means no employees have to round up stray carts.

Aisles are lined with about 1,400 items displayed in cut-open cartons. Brands are almost exclusively Aldi, and produce is prepackaged.

Shoppers either bring their own bags or buy them from the store, and they bag their own groceries. When it's time to pay, the store accepts only cash and debit cards. No personal checks or credit cards. That way the chain avoids the cost of bounced checks and the high fees banks charge merchants for credit cards.

Store executives say prices run about 15 percent below Wal-Mart and about 35 to 40 percent below mainline supermarkets.

At a statewide dealmaking trade show staged earlier this year by the International Council of Shopping Centers, Aldi was one of a handful of value-oriented retailers — in addition to Beall's Outlets, Big Lots and thrift stores including Goodwill — singled out as hot growth chains despite a slumping retail economy.

There are nine Aldi stores in the Tampa Bay area. The company hopes to expand that to 15 by the end of 2010.

Lisa Buie can be reached at buie@sptimes.com or (813) 909-4604.

Aldi plans two discount grocery stores in west Pasco 10/22/09 [Last modified: Thursday, October 22, 2009 9:49pm]

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