Sub-zero temperatures didn’t keep attendance down at the grand opening of Aldi’s new grocery store in the Tilden Ridge Shopping Center, Hamburg.

More than 100 customers crowded into the front section of the store to watch the ribbon cutting on Thursday morning, Jan. 31, before grabbing carts and checking out store selections.

The grand opening event also included free reusable shopping totes, samples of products, store gift cards and the chance to win free produce for a year.

First in line at the event was April Greninger of Leesport along with (second) Jennifer MacArthur, (third and fourth) Carol and Bob Gross and (fifth) Suzanne Udam, all Hamburg residents. The group exchanged cheerful greetings with others crowded in line behind them.

“We love Aldi’s,” Greninger said, and Udam noted she’s shopped at different Aldi stores since she was a teenager.

Welcoming all in line was David Gibson, district manager, who started the ribbon cutting ceremony. After welcoming guests and making sure all had received gift cards for varying amounts (from $10 to $100), he pointed out that all grocery carts were free for the day.

Normally, customers are asked to use a quarter to “rent” a cart for shopping. Once they take purchases to their car, they can return the cart and get their quarter back. This is one way the store takes a unique approach to save money: they do not have to pay employees to gather carts and return them to the store.

Dina Jackson is the Hamburg store manager and said the store currently has 10 employees. By training all employees to work in any section of the store, she said they cut costs.

“We work on minimal staff and do things differently to save the customer money,” Jackson said.

Turning to survey the facility, she grinned.

“It’s amazing,” she said. “We love it. The new layout, the open lighting, it’s very nice.”

Shayna Winters, director of operations, gave a pre-ceremony tour to various town officials.

“This is our newest look, with the produce at the font of the store,” she explained, noting features including open ceilings, modern lights, wide aisles and colorful banners promoting the theme of freshness. “That’s kind of our biggest focus, freshness.”

The Hamburg store includes new sections for a typical Aldi, including a cooler stacked with ready-made foods and single-serving drinks. Also new is a selection of fresh, never-frozen fish.

“We do things quite differently than a typical grocery store,” she added, pointing out that selections in aisles are kept in cases rather than stacked individually on shelves. “It’s really efficient for our truck loaders in the morning, and it adds to a neat appearance.”

Efficiency is one way to cut costs, Gibson said.

“We’re always trying to make it more efficient, to cut costs and to pass the savings on to our customers.”

Gibson estimated 90 percent of the items in the store are Aldi’s private label brands. Other brands are present, some on a regular basis and others due to special finds. Coke products are available, and the store currently has a selection of Valentine’s products including Twinkies and brand-name baking supplies.

Scattered among other selections are “Aldi Finds,” which are also featured in a single aisle in the store. These items are one-time deals purchased by the chain and offered for a limited time. Once the items are sold, Winters explained, they typically don’t come back.

Gibson pointed out the store’s “twice is nice” policy. Customers can return an item for any reason, even if they simply did not like it. Aldi’s will return the purchase price plus provide a free replacement item.

“There is no risk in trying something new,” he said, “so if you think something like, “That looks interesting but do I really want to try it?” there is no risk in trying it.”

Fred Herman sits on the board of supervisors for Tilden Township and attended the pre-opening tour.

“I haven’t shopped at Aldi before but I believe I will, and so will my wife,” he said, adding, “It’s a great addition to our community and I’ve heard nothing but good comments from customers and from a company level.”

He noted it’s nice to have another local option instead of running to Allentown or Reading. “And look at the people, what a turnout,” he said, looking at the grand-opening crowd.

Frank Cataldi, a Tilden Township patrolman, took the tour, too. He lives in neighboring Schuylkill County and notes many in his neighborhood will make the drive to Tilden Ridge.

“It’s a great store, and it’s an easier drive,” Cataldi said.

Also in attendance was Eric Knopping of Ironwood Property Group, which owns Tilden Ridge. He noted that it’s been 10 years since the shopping center opened.

“This was our last open property and we’re happy to have Aldi’s in it,” Knopping said, confirming the center is now at 100 percent capacity and that all but one of the residents are original leasers.

The new Aldi is located at 15 Wilderness Trail, Hamburg. Regular hours will be Monday to Saturday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. The winner of produce for a year, a prize valued at $800, will be drawn and the winner will be notified privately.

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