ALDI to open new store in Rochester, reopen Gates store

The corner of N. Winton Avenue and Blossom Road will have a grocery store again starting on Thursday.

ALDI's newly renovated stores typically look like this.
ALDI’s newly renovated stores typically look like this.

ALDI plans to open its long-awaited store on Thursday at 175 N. Winton Road. The German-based chain of grocery stores had eyed the area for several years but previously was stymied in its plans to build a store on the north side of Blossom Road. Everything changed however, when the Tops grocery store on the southwest side of the intersection closed.

ALDI renovated part of the space occupied by Tops until late 2018. A ribbon cutting is scheduled for 8:25 am on opening day, and customers can enter a drawing to win a year of ALDI’s produce.

“We know ALDI is the grocery option busy Rochester shoppers need for their everyday lives,” said Aaron Sumida, Tully division vice president for ALDI. “ALDI stores are designed to save customers time and money, and we’re looking forward to helping even more shoppers fill their carts at our new Rochester store.”

Local ALDI fans will have more than one store to crow about this month, as the store in Gates at 8 Spencerport Road, will reopen Aug. 28 after being closed for renovation. The ALDI corporation has been working its way through its Rochester-area stores with renovations.

The new store and renovation are part of a $3.4 billion investment ALDI is making to expand to 2,500 stores nationwide and freshen up its existing stores. The corporation said it now has 1,900 stores and is spending $1.9 billion to renovate 1,300 of them.

Through bulk purchasing and the use of store brands, ALDI offers a streamlined range of products that frequently sell for less than competitors’ similar products.

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Conflict over Whole Foods development continues in and out of court

The Daniele Family Cos. recently knocked down the old Mario’s restaurant on Monroe Avenue in anticipation of a Whole Foods grocery store development, but arguments are to be heard in Monroe County Supreme Court this week on a motion to prevent further demolition.

The motion stems from one of several lawsuits filed in the last year by Brighton Grassroots, an organization led by public relations consultant Howie Jacobson, which opposes the project. Opposition revolves around traffic that will increase on the already busy stretch of Monroe Avenue, density of the development and other technical development issues.

Daniele Enterprises issued a press release on the case Tuesday, reiterating its claim that the opposition is backed by the Wegman family, owners of the 98-store grocery chain headquartered near Rochester. The release points out that one of the plaintiffs in the suit, Peter Mulbery (an apparent misspelling in the court papers) of 245 Allens Creek Road, is married to the daughter of Bob Wegman’s sister, the late Cecilia Wright.  Directories list Peter Mulbury, an otolaryngologist, as the husband of Anne Wright Mulbury.

Bob Wegman led the company from 1950 to his death in 2006. He was the chairman of the board then and father of Danny Wegman, who is the current chairman.  Danny Wegman would be a first cousin of Anne Wright Mulbury, who is not listed as a plaintiff in the suit.

Danny J. Daniele said the company issued the press release because of the court action this week and because they “received information that one of the members is related to Danny Wegman, which helps support our strong belief that it’s funded by Wegmans indirectly.”

Jacobson responded, “It means nothing.  Once again, the real issues get pushed aside. It doesn’t have anything to do with Whole Foods grocery store. It’s an oversized plaza with a faulty traffic study that’s going to cause major congestion.”

Daniele said construction will begin in late summer, but additional steps are needed to make that happen. “It’s tough trying to fight a multibillion conglomerate that is intent on stopping competition,” he said. Nevertheless, “We believe we’ll be able to jump the hurdles necessary given the ‘Wegmans lawsuits,’ as we refer to them.”

Wegmans spokeswoman Jo Natale issued this statement in response to Daniele’s comments: “Much as we’d like to say more, we are sticking with our decision to no longer respond to the developer’s allegations or comment further on this project.”

Mulbury is one of several plaintiffs who live near the project and claim the development would harm the enjoyment of their properties because of traffic, noise or visual changes. Jacobson lives 1.5 miles from the proposed development, but says his twice-weekly bicycle rides would be ruined by the way the project will redevelop the Auburn Trail, a recreational trail that passes behind the property.

As part of a special zoning agreement, the Danieles will provide a longer and upgraded hiking trail, as well as a stoplight and improvements in traffic flow from businesses on the south side of Monroe Avenue. These amenities are in exchange for the town’s permission to develop an 83,000-square-foot project on land that normally would have been limited to 70,000 square feet of development.

Grocery store companies sometimes do employ the tactic of delaying development of competitors by opposing zoning variances or other municipal approvals, with the result of safeguarding millions of dollars in revenue for at least a year or so. As a company that has been expanding into new states in the last decade, Wegmans has been on the receiving end of such tactics.

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Hart’s the latest casualty in the grocery wars

Perhaps unsurprisingly in an era of  seismic shifts in the world of food markets, Hart’s Local Grocers announced this week that it will shut its doors by the end of the month, less than five years after the independent grocery store opened.

harts-positive-color_cmykprintHart’s founder Glenn Kellogg announced the closure Monday by way of Facebook and did not return a call for additional comment. The note said streamlining the store’s operations last year created the most profitable year in the store’s history, but declining sales made it impossible to continue.

“Looking to the past and projecting on the future, we imagined a livable neighborhood with daily services for its residents. We think we built a piece of that vision,” the post read. Certainly, with condominiums and new luxury apartment steps from the store, a growing population of downtown residents was available to patronize the store, even on foot. Additional residents will be coming to mixed-income apartments being built now on land reclaimed by filling in an adjacent section of Inner Loop.

But gaining potential customers and shaping their shopping habits in time to keep the store afloat apparently wasn’t to be.

“In general, retail downtown in that area, it’s just a little difficult,” said John Gonzalez, one of the co-owners of 66-year-old Hegedorn’s Market in Webster. “They had a lot of really great products and provided good service to the customer. It was a very cool place,” he said.

It takes more than a few years to establish a brand and change consumer patterns, he said, which in Rochester are heavily geared toward driving to Wegmans for groceries. “It’s always hard to compete with Wegmans; they’re always good at what they do,” he said.

During Hart’s brief lifetime, major shifts in the way groceries are bought and sold have made it more difficult for small independents and giant chain stores alike to stay in business.

Hart’s had made much of its delivery service, which was a rarity in this market when the store opened in 2014 and when the service was offered in early 2015. The original Hart’s, another grocery store that operated in Rochester and closed many years ago, delivered groceries by wagon, so a wagon became the logo of the present-day store.

The quaint child’s wagon, however, ended up going head-to-head with the Uber-ization of grocery shopping.

In the last few years, entire businesses have sprung up to manage online ordering and home delivery. Walmart and Wegmans began offering drive-up service for groceries and other items ordered online. In the last year, Wegmans and Target both began home delivery, too, through a phone app.

Hegedorn’s Gonzalez said his store is working with a local company to develop online ordering for home delivery. Hegedorn’s has offered home delivery for some time, and appears to be the only market in the area offering the throwback service of having baggers  wheel your groceries to your car.

Hart’s lifetime also has included expansion of discount chains such as Dollar General and Aldi across the country, with the Rochester market being no exception.

“So many more retailers today are selling groceries than they were a decade ago. That makes it more difficult for everyone,” Gonzalez said.

Retail game-changer Amazon bought Whole Foods, bringing its delivery model to a higher-end grocer and offering discounts to shoppers who are members of Amazon Prime. A Whole Foods has been proposed for the Rochester area, but is held up in legal disagreements.

Grocery stores much larger than Hart’s have struggled to stay upright. Tops, based in the Buffalo area, and the parent company of Winn-Dixie, in the South, have both filed for bankruptcy reorganization. Tops closed five stores in the Rochester area last year to streamline its operation.

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Aldi store planned for former Tops gets hearing

A public hearing by Rochester city officials Thursday morning will take up a signage issue associated with Aldi moving into the former Tops store at 175 Winton Road.

The Zoning Board Appeals hearing agenda says attached and stand-alone signs for the proposed grocery store don’t conform with existing codes, but details on the signage were not available.

An Aldi spokewoman said the company had no information to share right now about the store, which appears to be under renovation. The hearing is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Thursday, in City Council Chambers Room 302A, City Hall.

At 44,000 square feet, the Winton Road space is more than double the size of a typical Aldi store, and apparently Aldi plans to use just part of the space.

The store is across Blossom Road from another North Winton Village location where Aldi had proposed building a 17,000-square-foot store in  2015. But Aldi scrapped the plans in December 2017 after a lawsuit was filed and neighborhood opposition developed to the building plans for the site, the former home of Jim’s Restaurant.

The company currently has 10 stores in Monroe County, including one at 714 Latta Road in Greece that is closed for renovation but expected to reopen March 1, according to the Aldi website.

Aldi also operates stores in Medina, Orleans County; Batavia, Genesee County; Geneseo, Livingston County, and in the Ontario County locations of Victor and Canandaigua.

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Another Aldi store undergoes renovation

The Aldi store at 714 Long Pond Road in Greece is being renovated, with completion scheduled for April.

Empire Commercial Construction, a division of Taylor The Builders, has been awarded the renovation contract, which covers an addition, remodeling the exterior and interior, and making other site improvements. APD Engineering and Architecture of Rochester is designing the work.

“Empire is proud to maintain its ever-growing relationship with Aldi as they continue their successful store expansion and remodel initiatives,” said Project Executive Josh Myers. “As always, we remain committed to exceeding future construction goals for one of America’s favorite grocery retailers.”

The Greece store represents the fourth Aldi that Taylor has been involved with as the company both expands its number of stores to 2,500 by 2022, and renovates its existing stores. Taylor has worked on stores in Brockport, Irondequoit, and Hamburg, Erie County.

The $5 billion update and expansion is about halfway completed, according to Aldi. The company, founded in Germany in 1971, operates some 1,800 stores in 35 states.

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