Aldi Arrives in the Wedge to Great Fanfare

Three years, seven months, and 12 days after it was first proposed, Aldi’s newest Minneapolis store has opened at 26th and Lyndale. Above the grocery store is four additional floors, totaling 86 apartments. It was a long and winding road. We almost never had an “Uptown Aldi” (as our German corporate overlords are calling it).

TIMELINE: How did our Aldi come to exist?

January 2016: Developer Don Gerberding presents plans for an apartment building with a ground floor grocery store to the Whittier Alliance neighborhood organization. Some are irritated at the idea of a corporate chain coming to the neighborhood.

December 2016: The project is approved by the city. It is referred to as a “high-rise” and a “monstrosity.”

July 2017: Developer Don Gerberding brings a revised version to the Planning Commission. It’s approved for a second time.

January 2018: A third revision is put forward, and is denied by a Planning Commission that seems irritated by Don Gerberding’s unwillingness to take yes for an answer. Don Gerberding somehow manages to still get it built under the terms of the existing city approvals.

August 22, 2019: Aldi grand opening at 26th and Lyndale.

At 8 am there was already a long line of people hoping to be among the first 100 in line. I received a card indicating I was 80th in line, which gave me a shot at winning up to a $100 gift card. Doors opened at 8:25 am. I took my fabulous prizes (free reusable shopping bag, free quarter holder keychain, $100 gift card) and went home without doing any shopping (the large crowd had Aldi fever and I was afraid).

I’ve returned to the store a half dozen times over the past 4 days. My favorite grocery store is now very near to my home, so it’s a little bit like living inside the gates of Disney World. I’m sure I’ll get tired of it soon — but not yet.

Why Are You So Excited About Aldi?

If you’ve followed my tweets recently, you’ll know how excited I am to have my favorite grocery store just a block from my home. Why am I excited? Affordable food near people’s homes is vastly underrated. While the Wedge Co-op is just three blocks north, on 22nd Street, it serves a really different clientele. It shouldn’t be lost on anyone that there are many people for whom the co-op is prohibitively expensive. (I know, I know, all those people who drive to the co-op are saving the planet.)

I’m no stranger to walking (and biking and busing) for groceries. For me, walking for groceries is fundamental to quality of life. When I moved to Minneapolis, the question I tried to answer on a Google Map was: where is it possible to live near both high-quality transit and grocery stores? There was only one answer to that question: the Wedge. It’s why, in the years since, I’ve come to see my neighborhood as an opportunity — a place more people should have the chance to live. And the kind of place that more neighborhoods should have a chance to grow into.

Now, this new Aldi has landed in my backyard. I live within three minutes of the store, and there are 50,000 others within a mile. So I like to imagine that some of the people I’ve seen walking home with groceries over the last week are walking for groceries for the first time, beginning to enjoy this new habit. An apartment building with a new grocery store brings tangible benefits that might even warm the heart of hardened density skeptics.

Most importantly, now I can purchase a big old watermelon and carry it home in my arms; or I can buy a giant take-and-bake pizza that’s too unwieldy to carry more than a block; or I can stop in for those limited time Aldi deals on things like a gazebo-in-a-box, and drag it home.

How Do I Shop at Aldi?

Aldi sells itself as a no frills, efficient, low cost grocery store. This explains these four things that might surprise you the first time you shop there.

  • Bring your own bags. Or buy them at the store.
  • Bring a quarter. Carts unlock with a quarter. You get it back when you return it.
  • Store brands. Name brands are rarely found here. I find Aldi products to be high quality. Produce is hit or miss.
  • Checkout is fast. Your groceries will be tossed in your cart and you go bag them at a counter against the wall.

The 26th and Lyndale location is unique for Aldi in that it offers handheld shopping baskets (that don’t require a deposit to unlock). Be careful: they will set off the shoplifting alarm if you try to walk out the door with one.

Can I achieve the co-op experience by driving to the Aldi?

Yes, you can drive to the Aldi. Parking in the underground garage is free. I encourage you to try a left turn into the Aldi garage just for the fun of it.