Yulee, Oakleaf sites under contract; store now open at Town Center Promenade.
As Aldi opened its fifth area discount grocery store Thursday morning at Town Center Promenade, area real estate director Jason Povlick confirmed two more sites are under contract.
Povlick said those locations are in Yulee in Nassau County and in the Oakleaf area of Southwest Jacksonville.
He declined to specify where those would be, although previously reported plans show Oakleaf Corner as a potential address.
Those are in addition to a store under construction in Bolton Plaza along Blanding Boulevard in Orange Park and another one confirmed for CB Square in the Regency area in a former Bed Bath and Beyond at 9317 Atlantic Blvd.
That adds up to nine locations, and more are coming.
“There’s no part of Jacksonville off-limits,” Povlick said. “We’re growing everywhere.” Povlick said several more Aldi stores would open in the Jacksonville market over the next several years, but he did not want to be specific.
The first four opened in St. Augustine in St. Johns County; Middleburg in Clay County; and in Jacksonville at 9041 Southside Blvd. and at 7043 Normandy Blvd.
The St. Augustine store was the first to open in 2014. The Normandy store, which opened in May, is similar to the Town Center Promenade location at 4444 Town Center Parkway.
Both are the chain’s “new look” of a modern design, open ceilings, natural lighting and an environmental focus on building materials, refrigeration and lighting.
The stores feature new shelving and floor tiling, different wall graphics, more fresh produce, larger bakery and dairy sections and other enhancements.
The design led Businessinsider.com to report the Richmond, Virginia, Aldi store looked almost identical to the 365 by Whole Foods Market stores that focus on “everyday value” products.
Aldi markets that it offers premium groceries for up to 50 percent less than competitors. More than 90 percent of its products are under Aldi’s exclusive brands.
“This is a really nice area. It’s definitely up and coming,” Aldi Operations Director Jamie McFadden in the Haines City division said Thursday before Aldi opened for business across from St. Johns Town Center.
The almost 19,000-squarefoot store is larger than some of the first locations but similar in size to the newer ones, which appear to be in the 19,000 to 20,000 square-feet range. Those are smaller than the typical Publix, Winn-Dixie or Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market.
Asked about the increasing competition among grocers, McFadden said “everybody seems to be revamping,” including reviewing and lowering prices.
“There’s a lot of activity in the world of groceries right now,” she said.
That activity in Northeast Florida includes the recent opening of Earth Fare’s second store; the refreshing of The Fresh Market locations; the conversion by Southeastern Grocers of another Winn-Dixie store into its Harveys lower-price banner; plans for a new Neighborhood Market in Baymeadows; a Trader Joe’s build-out in Mandarin; and Publix Super Markets Inc., which continues to update its stores.
On top of that, Amazon.com bought Whole Foods Market and on Monday cut prices on staples. The area’s only Whole Foods Market is in Mandarin, across the street from Publix.
All grocery companies are bracing for more, including the Lidl discount grocery chain from Germany that opened its first U.S. stores in June in Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina with plans for at least 90 more East Coast locations over the next year. Its U.S. base is in Arlington, Virginia.
It has not announced its plans for Florida. Its stores are about the same size as Aldi.
Aldi, also based in Germany, is well aware of Lidl. McFadden said that having another European grocer will raise awareness of international chains for consumers. Aldi’s U.S. base is Batavia, Illinois.
While about eight Aldi shoppers were in line just after 7 a.m. Thursday, the queue grew to about 30 at the 8:30 a.m. ribbon-cutting ceremony by McFadden, District Manager Jim Conroy, store manager Mike Tay and a staff of almost 20.
Customers Katelyn Jones and Anika Lee arrived about 6:15 a.m., becoming the second set of customers in line behind Catalina Buck, who arrived earlier with relatives.
Jones, who lives in Clay County, and Lee, a neighborhood resident, work retail jobs at St. Johns Town Center.
“It’s gorgeous, it’s elevated, it’s a nice Aldi,” said Jones as they stocked a shopping cart. “And the staff has been fabulous.” “We love it,” Lee said.
Dot Garcia arrived about 6:35 a.m. and said she lives about 12 minutes away. “I was up. I knew it was coming and it’s new,” she said about her reasons for attending. She said the line of waiting customers would have been longer if school wasn’t in session.
Aldi is open 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday.
The company operates almost 1,700 U.S. stores in 35 states and says it serves more than 40 million customers each month.
In June, Aldi announced that it continues to disrupt the U.S. grocery industry. In addition to its growth strategy and $1.6 billion program to remodel 1,300 stores by 2020, it announced a $3.4 billion capital investment to expand to 2,500 stores nationwide by the end of 2022. It said it would be the third largest grocery store by count in the U.S. and serve 100 million customers per month.
The company’s product lines include an expanding organic selection, liveGfree gluten-free, SimplyNature and NeverAny!, which is a line of meats free from antibiotics, added hormones and animal byproducts.