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Grocery store files plans to demolish building, start anew along south Iowa Street


The Lawrence grocery store business is a competitive one, evidenced by what seems to be a continual upgrading of stores with new bells and whistles. One of Lawrence’s smaller players in the market, though, is taking that idea to a new level. Aldi has filed plans to tear down its entire store near 31st and Iowa streets and rebuild a new grocery on the site.

I’ve got a call into an Aldi spokeswoman to get more details, but the company has filed a plan at City Hall that says it intends to “demolish the existing building and parking lot in order to construct new Aldi store and associated parking lot.”

The plans call for Aldi to spend $2.5 million to build an 18,985 square-foot store on the property. That is just a bit larger than the current store, which is 15,780 square feet, according to the documents on file at City Hall. It is a little surprising that Aldi is tearing the store down rather than just remodeling and adding on. The building isn’t that old. I believe it was constructed in the late 1990s or early 2000s, meaning that I certainly have clothes in my closet that are older than that store.

The Lawrence Aldi store at 31st and Iowa streets has filed plans to tear down the existing store and build a new store at the same site.

The Lawrence Aldi store at 31st and Iowa streets has filed plans to tear down the existing store and build a new store at the same site. by Nick Krug

If you are not familiar with Aldi, it is a discount chain that has a reputation for taking frugality seriously. The store often had a smaller selection of products to help control costs. For years, the store did not take credit cards, although that has changed recently. It also has gained attention for charging shoppers extra for grocery sacks and for a unique system that threw me for a loop the first time I experienced it: In order to get a grocery cart, you have to insert a quarter into a locking device. You get the quarter back, if you return the cart to the store rather than leaving it out in the parking lot. (At first I hated this system but now I’ve found it is a great way to flaunt my wealth. I leave the cart in the parking lot, telling the world that I’m so rich I don’t care about that quarter.)

Aldi, though, does have a major U.S. project underway to upgrade its stores. The German-based retailer is huge in Europe, and the company announced in recent months that it is becoming more aggressive in the U.S.. It opened its first stores in southern California last year, and in February it announced that it was undertaking a $1.6 billion nationwide store remodeling project.

I’m assuming that the Lawrence store is part of that project, although most of the other stores have simply been remodeled rather than torn down and rebuilt. Again, I’ve got a call into Aldi to get a bit more information.

The nationwide plans announced in February call for improvements to the dairy, produce and bakery departments. New stores also are designed to have more space for growing product lines, such as gluten-free products and a new line of premium baby products. In addition, stores will feature a more “modern design, open ceilings, natural lighting, and environmentally friendly building materials, such as recycled building materials, energy saving refrigeration, and LED lighting,” according to a press release.

In reading up on Aldi, it sounds like it also has a new store design/concept that it is trying in some markets. An article by Business Insider reported the company late last year debuted a new store concept in Richmond, Va., that is designed to compete with Whole Foods. Lawrence, of course, doesn’t have a Whole Foods, but it has lots of similarly oriented retailers.

The article says the new Aldi design looks almost identical to Whole Foods’ discount chain called 365 by Whole Foods. The new Aldi design features softer lighting, larger amounts of fresh produce, wider aisles and and electronic displays on the walls, according to the article.

The new design also features modern shelving, where many Aldi stores rely on the warehouse system of stacked boxes and bins. The new stores still don’t include a deli, but do include a much larger selection of prepackaged meats and cheeses, plus premade dips, soups and salads. The stores also sell some household goods, like pillows and decorations.

I’ll let you know if I hear more details about the Lawrence store, including a timeline for when the current store may close for demolition.


Jennifer Alexander 4 months, 3 weeks ago

I am so glad to hear this. As long as the prices remain low/competitive, I am all for a remodel.

Renee Holl 4 months, 3 weeks ago

I think this is a wonderful idea - an even better one would be for them to do this building, then build a new store in North Lawrence. Aldi is the place to shop for economical, quality food. (There is room just north of the current Sonic). Please, please, please!

Sue McDaniel 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Where will we shop in the interim? I DO NOT want to shop elsewhere unless I have to!

Cait McKnelly 4 months, 3 weeks ago

I love Aldi, and not just because shopping there can cut as much as a third from my grocery budget. They also bring in imported items from Europe that you can't find anywhere else (well unless you go to Au Marche). And they also stock seasonal items that aren't just groceries. I LOVE Aldi at Christmas.

David Holroyd 4 months, 3 weeks ago

At least they do not ask for 'FREEBIES" , i do believe.

How is that Gilbane project coming along..surely that cannot be the Gilbane that paid fines for Bribery...A developer coming to Lawrence that bribed!

Richard Heckler...that's worth investigating....A firm seeks Lawrence for development and is known for bribery...it surely cannot be.

But then, Lawrence and crooked developers are a perfect match.

But back to grocery stores. The auto dealer story and about all the taxes they paid...well,

Checkers is JUST ONE business and in 2016 they paid a whopping sum of $138,327.26.

No story about that......come on Chad let's be fair and report no just the car dealers but ghe grocers as well.

$138,227.26. The school board should thank Mr. Lews and associates for the generosity.

And Aldi likewise.

Brandon Devlin 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Can we just get through a story once without a rambling complaint? Please? Just once?

Jean Robart 4 months, 3 weeks ago

The Aldi's here in Paducah, Kentucky was torn down and rebuilt from the ground up. And the new store is wonderful for the shoppers. I like shopping at Aldi's, and the new store makes it more enjoyable. They had a temporary location so the customers were not too inconvenienced. It worked out very well.

Larry Sturm 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Hope they put in electric carts as well.

Cait McKnelly 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Given that a great deal of Aldi's business comes from retirees and others on fixed incomes, this would be a plus. I made the mistake, once, of going to an Aldi's on "Social Security payday", i.e. the fourth Wednesday of the month. It was a jammed pack circus.

Cait McKnelly 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Oh and let me add this. Aldi is a privately held, international company whose HQ is located in Germany. Based on their business model and prices they are attracting and taking in billions in Social Security dollars and shipping that money out of the country. I'm not angry at them for this. They deserve to get that money. What I find incredibly sad is that there isn't an American company with the guts and grit to do the same. (And no, Walmart doesn't count.)

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