ALDI, second Big Y open their doors in Farmington Valley
By Ted Glanzer
The Farmington Valley welcomed two new grocery stores this fall, with another coming in the spring 2021, with each one - ALDI, Big Y and Whole Foods – providing a different experience.
ALDI opened its 14,000-square-foot standalone store at 101 Albany Turnpike in Canton in early October. It’s the first ALDI in the Farmington Valley and, according to a press release, is part of a national expansion plan to become the third-largest U.S. grocery retailer in terms of the number of stores by the end of 2022.
ALDI is perhaps best known for its no-frills shopping experience, such as requiring quarters to access shopping carts (which are returned when the carts are placed back) and not having baggers, as well as low-cost private-label goods interspersed with several name-brand offerings.
The ALDI experience, according to the company, enables the company to pay its workers higher wages as well as slash customers’ grocery bills by 25 to 50%.
In an email, Chris Daniels, Aldi South Windsor Division vice president, said the company is excited to make inroads in the Farmington Valley.
“We were thrilled to officially open our doors to the Canton community earlier this month,” Daniels said. “We’ve received lots of positive feedback from shoppers, and we look forward to continuing serving the community with this new store.”
He said the store opened in Canton because it was a “natural fit” that is “conveniently located for our shoppers.”
The understated Big Y store opening at 1313 Hopmeadow St. in Simsbury Oct. 22 wasn’t what would normally take place, according to Store Director Sam Chevalier.
Without the pandemic, there would have been far more pomp, with family members present, local community officials on hand, speeches, typically a check presentation for local schools, flag raisings and tons of free samples for customers, Chevalier said.
COVID-19 put the kibosh on all of those things, Chevalier said, but it didn’t dampen the enthusiasm for the glistening new 49,000-square-foot store, which brings the regional chain up to 84 locations, including Table and Vine and express stores, Chevalier said.
“We have grown, but sustainably,” Chevalier said, with each location based on the community around them.
While the store, which was in the works for years but finally broke ground last year, is more of a traditional grocery store, it also stocks local products like honey, craft beer and cleaning products, among other things.
“We enjoy taking care of the communities we’re in,” Chevalier said.
In addition, Chevalier said the Simsbury location is unique from its Big Y sister locations with its express checkout, which can be used with a smart phone.
Parents, Chevalier said, can pick up a rotisserie meal with the fixings and be out of the store in less than five minutes.
And while the store is limited in what it can offer due to the pandemic, there will be a salad bar, a wing bar, a self-serve pizza cafe, a soup bar and a crustacean case stocked with crab legs and lobster tails.
There is also a ready-to-eat meal section that, Chevalier said, “surpasses a lot of our competitors.”
“It’s our food made locally,” he said.
Chevalier added the store makes an effort to ensure it offers healthy meals for people on the go.
“It’s about giving everyone as many options as we can to make sure have what they need when they need it and at the same time doing it with a smile,” he said. “In this day and age, a lot of our competitors view customers as doing them a favor by being there. We’re here for the customer and here because of the customer. That goes to our culture.”
To celebrate the Simsbury location’s opening, the store will offer specials throughout the month of November that can be viewed by downloading the Big Y app, Chevalier said.
Avon Director of Planning and Community Development Hiram Peck also provided an update on the new Whole Foods being constructed at the Avon Village Center development on Route 44 by the town hall complex.
Peck said the exterior work of the building is proceeding, while the “interior needs a lot of work.”
He estimated the building would be completed by the spring.
The building is part of Phase I in which five buildings are being constructed, with already up and two more on Climax Road that are expected to go up in the next couple of months, Peck said.
The buildings are scheduled for retail, which could mean restaurants or some other business.
Construction has been slowed, Peck said, due to the virus.
“Crews are being careful there are no COVID issues, and that’s good,” he said.
When it opens, the Whole Foods will offer something different from Aldi and Big Y, as its focus, according to Chevalier, is geared more toward basket shoppers who are looking for a few specialized things.