Thursday, January 29, 2009

ALDI Rage: East Nashville, Meet Trader Joe's Thrifty Cousin!

Posted By on Thu, Jan 29, 2009 at 11:00 AM

click to enlarge aldi.jpg



East Nashville may be petitioning to get its own Trader Joe's, but on Feb. 9, at 615 Gallatin Rd., it gets the next best thing: ALDI.



That sound you just heard like a whale spouting was the 37205 zipcode spitting its Starbucks in unison. ALDI? The grocery too cheap to provide complimentary shopping carts or baggers? The grocery shopped by retirees and folks on fixed incomes? The grocery stocked full of obscure brand names you'll never see at Kroger? That ALDI?



Aye, that's the one. Our own Cleveland Pete, a man who can stretch a dollar until Washington's chin and forehead meet, hails it as "the peasant's grocery." It's a place where a fella can walk in with a $10 bill, buy a tub of crab clawmeat, a head of lettuce and several cans of veggies, and leave with change. As it turns out, ALDI, like Trader Joe's, is a subsidiary of German food conglomerate Albrecht Discounts.



Laugh all you want, Green Hills, but once you look past the superficial niceties (as Slashfood noted) the similarities between the two stores outweigh the differences. Sure, ALDI is functional where Trader Joe's is whimsical--in place of Trader Giotto vodka sauce, you're more likely to encounter Millville-brand cereal flakes. But the emphasis on exclusive, low-cost in-house brands is the same. The store limits its selection to some 1,400 household staples, using high-volume buying to keep the price low.



The similarities don't stop there. No-frills decor? Check. A store philosophy/personality defined by odd procedural quirks? Check. (At ALDI, shopping carts are famously provided for a quarter deposit, which you get back as you leave; bags cost a nickel extra, a quiet, unfussy bit of conservation.) If Trader Joe's has built a kind of cargo-cult narrative around itself, ALDI presents itself as the store for people too busy and cash-strapped to fool around--get in, get out, and nobody gets overcharged.



If none of this lights up the switchboards across the river, I imagine the specials will. Yesterday at the Nolensville Road ALDI outpost, I stumbled upon a huge dump bin where a woman was fishing out avocados. The price: 49 cents apiece--half what I paid at Kroger not long ago, and a sixth of what they were running the last time I was in Whole Foods. I got eight. They're hard as knots, but they can spend some time cozying up in a paper sack. Thanks to the peasant's grocer, I'll be eating like a king.



Guacamole, anyway.



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