Aldi expands in San Diego with San Carlos store

Customers make their way down one of the wide aisles at the Aldi food market in Vista.
(Charlie Neuman / San Diego Union-Tribune)

Discount grocer Aldi is set to open its first store within city limits, and its fifth in the county, as part of the international chain’s $3.4 billion U.S. expansion.

The newest location — at 8788 Navajo Road in San Carlos — opens its doors on Aug. 29. Grand-opening festivities, including a ribbon-cutting ceremony, are planned for Aug. 30. The 11,890 square-foot store will carry the company’s standard product lineup and be open daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

“We are extremely excited about our stores that are in San Diego,” said Tom Cindel, an operations executive with the German-based grocer. “There’s definitely a push; we’re moving our way into the market.”

Aldi currently operates nearly 1,800 U.S. stores spanning 35 states and serving 40 million customers. The privately owned company aims to have a total of 2,500 stores across the country by 2020. San Diego is part of the firm’s concerted push to make the foreign name more well-known in the Southern California market, where it operates 56 stores.

First opened in Germany in 1961, Aldi takes a less-is-more approach to grocery shopping where customers get bargain prices in exchange for a frill-free experience. That means a warehouse-style space with less choice and 25-cent grocery cart rentals. The grocer, which shares a familial connection to Trader Joe’s, is known for its mostly private label selection of products, which make up 90 percent of grocery items for sale and are meant to compete head-to-head with brand name items.

“Our main goal is emphasizing the incredible quality that we have at the lowest prices around,” Cindel said, who added that the company views its competition as anyone selling food or groceries. “We want to make sure we’ve got a better offering than (our competitors) do.”

With that in the mind, the company has expanded its product line by 60 percent over the last three years, even adding vegan and gluten-free items to the fold, Cindel said.

The new location at Navajo Road brings Aldi closer to the heart of San Diego, having thus far operated only in Chula Vista, Escondido and Vista. Additional San Diego locations are planned, but the company isn’t ready to disclose specifics, saying only that a few stores are expected to debut in the upcoming months. An Encinitas location is the works for 333 N. El Camino Real, according to real-estate tracker CoStar.

San Carlos’ Aug. 30 ribbon-cutting ceremony starts at 8:15 a.m. and will be followed by a “Golden Ticket” giveaway with the first 100 customers receiving giftcards.

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