Hundreds of area residents were on hand Thursday morning to see the ribbon cut for a new Aldi supermarket in Mount Airy, including some who had spent the night at the site on State Street.
“I was the first one in line,” said Michelle Brown of Dobson, who was among a group of four people arriving at 10 p.m. Wednesday for the occasion, including her grandson, Tony O’Rourke.
While many were lured to the new store by a Golden Ticket giveaway offering gift cards to the first 100 customers and a chance to win a year’s supply of Aldi produce, Brown offered a different reason for being there.
“Just something fun to do,” the Dobson resident said, “just to experience something with my grandson.” In the case of the Aldi opening, that experience involved witnessing the grand opening of a long-awaited, innovative grocery store just off U.S. 601 behind KFC and Arby’s where a cafeteria building once stood.
But regardless of their motivations for being there Thursday, the hundreds of people who showed up for the event made their presence known by forming a long line. It stretched the length of Aldi’s parking out to EMS Drive near Rogers Realty & Auction Co., and along that street northwest toward Holiday Inn Express.
“It’s crazy,” said Irene White of Dobson while surveying the scene shortly after arriving Thursday morning.
Others had appeared much sooner to be near the front of the line, including Billy Robertson — not Wednesday night as Brown and her group had, but still qualifying for early bird status. “We got here at five o’clock this morning,” Robertson said. “We got up at four o’clock.”
Tables offering free cinnamon buns, coffee and orange juice, which were set up in front of the building, helped the eager shoppers pass the time as hot and humid conditions prevailed.
Finally, the ribbon cutting occurred, with Aldi District Manager Florencia Drot de Gourville of Winston-Salem using a large pair of golden scissors to snip the ribbon held by store employees standing at the entrance.
“We are so excited to be in Mount Airy,” she told the crowd.
Shoppers subsequently rushed into the store where more tables of snack items awaited, along with equally inviting air-conditioning and a sparkling decor with giant photographs of grocery items lining the walls.
The German-based Aldi Inc. broke ground last December for the 21,000-square-foot grocery store, which is employing 15 to 20 people.
“We thought it was a really good market for us,” the Aldi district manager said of why the rapidly growing supermarket chain chose Mount for one of its latest expansions.
“It’s a great location,” Drot de Gourville added.
Local residents also expressed appreciation for the new store Thursday, who in addition to the shoppers gathered included city official Shirley Brinkley standing on the sidelines to watch the grand opening unfold. She is a member of the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners whose South Ward includes the new Aldi store.
Brinkley explained that she was on hand to greet Aldi both as a city resident and a commissioner, “just to give them a welcome.”
She admittedly is a fan of the store, due to visiting various Aldi locations during travels around the country with her husband. “We love Aldi,” said Brinkley, who is happy that one is now in Mount Airy.
“I think it’s outstanding.”
The new store is open daily from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Aldi is known for innovations, which it says simplify operations and saves customers money, including 25-cent grocery cart rentals and asking shoppers to bag their own groceries. The chain’s supermarkets also feature open ceilings, natural lighting and environmentally friendly building materials.
The layout of the local store is focused on in-demand items featuring fresh food, produce, dairy and baked goods.
Aldi, which is short for Albrecht Discount, was founded by two German brothers in 1946 and the supermarket chain now operates more than 10,000 stores in 18 countries.
Earlier this year, Aldi announced an aggressive plan to ramp up U.S. expansion, with a goal of 2,500 stores by the end of 2022, which includes the new outlet in Mount Airy. The local expansion is part of a $3.4 billion investment.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.