After years of questions, lawsuits and location speculation, an Aldi in Bluffton is beginning to take shape.
Bright blue signs with the Aldi logo and “Coming Soon” are displayed at the site being renovated in the mall at US 278 and Burnt Church Road.
The area is fenced, but the works are transforming the space originally designed to be a fresh market into an Aldi supermarket. The entrance has been moved from the center to the right side of the façade, which now features a tower typical of Aldi locations.
Workers could be seen inside the cavernous space through the opening that will become the new entrance.
Aldi representatives did not respond to an email sent Wednesday morning asking for a specific opening date.
When the mall was first conceived in 2016, developer David Oliver and his company Jaz Management LLC announced that Fresh Market would anchor with Hobby Lobby and PGA Superstore. At that time, stores were scheduled to open in early 2017.
Fresh Market’s green and white striped awnings have been installed outside the 21,000 square foot space, but progress has stalled. After a flurry of legal filings regarding the lease agreement between Fresh Market and Jaz Management in 2017, the deal fell through.
As Hobby Lobby, PGA Superstore, Aspen Dental and the First Watch restaurant, along with other businesses, opened in the mall, the space that was supposed to be Fresh Market remained dark and incomplete.
Then, in 2018, Aldi and developer David Oliver appealed to the Beaufort County Design Review Board for approval to make changes to the building’s exterior.
The Design Review Board approved the facade changes on June 7 of the same year. County officials at the time said they were happy with Aldi’s proposal and approved it with minor changes. However, the approval lapsed when Aldi failed to act within a year.
Meanwhile, Aldi opened stores in Pooler and Savannah.
Finally, the previously approved designs were resubmitted to county staff on August 31, 2021 and were re-approved the following week, according to previous reports in The Island Packet. Another set of minor changes submitted by an architect on the project were formally approved on January 28.
In February, Aldi began advertising for a full-time assistant store manager and a few days later confirmed that the store in Bluffton was due to open.
“Yes, we are pleased to confirm that as part of the newly announced 150 Aldi stores that will open this year, we plan to open our first store in Bluffton by the end of the year,” the VP wrote. of the Aldi Jefferson division, Shaun O’Keefe, in an email on February 9.
The next day, the City of Beaufort announced that an Aldi would be included in the new Beaufort Station development at the southwest corner of Robert Smalls Parkway and Parris Island Gateway.
The Batavia, Illinois-based discount grocer that started in Germany has about 2,000 stores in 36 states, according to its website. According to foodindustry.com, the company says it is on track to become the third-largest grocery retailer by number of stores by the end of 2022, behind Walmart and Kroger.
The retailer’s website lists 47 stores in South Carolina, but that list does not include any of the advertised stores in Beaufort County.
Aldi describes its stores as “no frills”. Grocery items, many of which are store brands, are presented in their original shipping boxes to save money on restocking shelves. It charges fees for paper and plastic bags and requires customers to pack their own groceries. Customers who need a cart must use a quarter that they collect when they return the cart to its corral.