Market Street lot to get new grocery store

Nathan Baker • Apr 16, 2014 at 9:11 PM

A new grocery market in Johnson City aims to bring a European flavor to the area’s food store offerings.

But you won’t find overpriced and undersized coffee-based drinks or a management structure with a largely symbolic figurehead at Aldi — it’s a German company — and when it builds a new 18,000-square-foot location on West Market Street later this year, it will import the sleek design principals and efficiency of a base-model Mercedes-Benz.

Gary Kalogeros, property manager for Peerless Properties and Development, said the deal is signed to bring the chain store to the empty lot east of the former Bank of America building at 1616 W. Market St.

“It won’t take them long, they’ll have it up in five months after starting construction,” he said of the new store. “The plan’s already been approved, the engineering’s been done, they’re moving right along and shooting for late spring to get started.”

When reached Wednesday by phone, an Aldi spokesperson would not confirm the company’s push into the Tri-Cities, but was comfortable explaining some of the firm’s standard operating procedures.

When (or if) Aldi does arrive locally, some of its practices may seem foreign to new customers — because they are.

To keep prices and needed shelf space low, the chain offers store branded products alongside one or two alternative name brands. That’s why the new store will be 18,000 square feet instead of the 60,000-square-foot or more superstores with which we Americans are more familiar.

Patrons at Aldi stores deposit coins into an inside storage rack to receive a shopping cart, then are responsible for returning it when they’re finished if they want the deposit back.

With this system based on personal responsibility, employees aren’t needed to chase carts around the parking lot.

Demand for staff is also cut by not having roaming workers bagging groceries, you have to do it yourself.

Didn’t bring your own bags? That’s fine, you can buy some at the checkout. There are no free rides on the Aldi train.

The practices may sound strange to regular Kroger shoppers, but they’ve helped Aldi capture an overwhelming majority share of the German grocery market, allowed the chain to grow worldwide and landed members of the Albrecht family, the company’s owners, on several Forbes lists.

Locals may be better acquainted with Aldi’s more famous sister store, Trader Joe’s, which adheres the few items on the German shopping punchlist to wide success.

Aldi enters the city shortly after the closing of another discount food store, Hometown IGA, on North Roan Street, and before the Food City store nearby is scheduled to move a mile north on State of Franklin Road to capture the disposable income of more affluent neighborhoods.

Joining Aldi on the Market Street lot will be a 12,000-square-foot strip mall, Kalogeros said, with six suites, give or take according to future tenants’ needs.

Peerless Properties is in discussions with national groups to populate the end caps of that center, which Kalogeros said will likely be built following the opening of the new grocery store.

The former bank building, also owned by Peerless, will be renovated as part of a third phase of the adjoining properties’ facelift and will be actively marketed as office space.

Follow Nathan Baker on Twitter @JCPressBaker. Like him on Facebook: www.facebook.com/jcpressbaker.

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