Vedbraaten says unique store would ‘bring an awful lot of people’ to town

    The two-hour “working session” of the CHEDA Board of Directors and other community leaders and stakeholders this week was designed so people seated around the table could discuss, using broad brushstrokes, how CHEDA, with an additional allocation of $350,000 from the city council, could most positively impact things like jobs, workforce development, housing and downtown.

    But when CHEDA Executive Director Craig Hoiseth opened the meeting by asking for initial ideas from the full conference room at Valley Technology Park, he received a very specific answer.

    “Get an ALDI store,” At Large Crookston City Council Member Tom Vedbraaten said. “It would bring an awful lot of people to town.”

    If you’ve never heard of ALDI, the simplest explanation is that it’s a grocery store chain. But its popularity is spreading fast, because of the inventory on its shelves and its prices, of course, but also because of what ALDI promotes as its largely unique mission and philosophy. For instance, 90 percent of the products are “ALDI exclusive” brands. Also, shopper who use a cart pay a 25-cent rental fee per visit. (You get your quarter back when you leave.) ALDI also strongly encourages customers to bring their own bags or purchase reusable bags from the store, to cut down on waste from plastic bags.

    For those reasons and others, ALDI is catching on. It now has more than 1,600 stores in 35 states. The closest store to Crookston is in Moorhead. One recently opened in Fergus Falls, too.

    While several who are familiar with ALDI and reacted to Vedbraaten’s suggestion offered a disclaimer that an ALDI store in Crookston would compete directly with Crookston’s Hugo’s Family Marketplace and the grocery store in the local Walmart Supercenter, it was clear in their comments that ALDI is definitely onto something.

    “If you like value, it’s amazing,” said Crookston School District Superintendent Jeremy Olson. He added that he was aware of some resistance in Fergus Falls when ALDI came to that city. “They’re loyal there and maybe somewhat hesitant to change, but when it opened people really jumped on it quickly,” the superintendent noted.

    Vedbraaten initially suggested that the Fisher Avenue corridor be targeted for an ALDI store, but as conversations on other subjects having to do with downtown development commenced, including pursuing a high-rise apartment complex with retail space on the first floor, downtown emerged as a possible location for an ALDI store.

    Hoiseth, who said he visited the Fergus Falls ALDI store recently to see what all the excitement was about, said he’d do some initial investigating to determine, among other things, if ALDI has a minimum population requirement for cities it considered.