Pelham Aldi opens its doors

Representatives from Aldi's and the City of Pelham gather in front of the store for a grand opening ceremony on March 1. (Reporter Photo/Jon Goering)

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

More than 50 grocery cart-toting early bird shoppers lined up across the parking lot of Pelham’s new Aldi Food Market on March 1 in an attempt to be among the first to shop at the chain’s first Shelby County location.

City and store officials joined the shoppers as the discount-oriented store, which is at 200 Big Mountain Road, celebrated its grand opening.

“This is the day we’ve all been looking forward to,” Pelham Mayor Don Murphy said after the store’s ribbon-cutting ceremony. “Everyone in Pelham has been asking me when the Aldi was going to open. We’re finally here.”

The new 17,500-square-foot grocery store has several differences from many other area grocery stores. Aldi offers limited name-brand products, and relies heavily on its own store brands.

“Almost 95 percent of our premium products are sold under exclusive Aldi select brands,” read a frequently asked question sheet handed out to customers as they entered the store. “These items are produced to meet our stringent quality standards, and are sold only in Aldi stores.”

Shopping carts are rented for 25 cents each, and the quarter is refunded when the cart is returned to its rack. Shoppers must also either bring shopping bags from home or purchase them at the checkout line.

Because Aldi charges for bags and rents shopping carts to customers, the store is able to keep its prices down by not assigning employees to collect shopping carts from the parking lot and bag groceries, said Aldi Vice President Troy Marshall.

“We feel like we have something great to offer our shoppers,” Marshall said. “People are shocked when they see our prices. Today, people have less discretionary income, and our prices are up to 40 percent lower than other stores.

“Our prices get people in the door, and our quality keeps them coming back,” Marshall added. “Everything in here today is being sold at our everyday low prices.”

The Pelham store is Aldi’s sixth in the Birmingham metropolitan area. The company currently operates stores in Trussville, Homewood, Bessemer and two in Birmingham.

Marshall said the company has been looking to open a store in Shelby County for several years.

“This is something we’ve been looking at for about four years now,” Marshall said. “We are very excited to be here.”