Oak Park's Aldi grocery store closes

Company says it's looking for another spot in the village

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By MARTY STEMPNIAK

First reported 3/3/2010 4:49 p.m.

Oak Parkers shopping for dirt-cheap groceries are going to have to start searching a little farther from the village. Aldi has closed its only location in Oak Park, on Lake Street just west of Austin Boulevard, but, the company says, is searching for another location in the village to open a new store.

Pamela Wollenberg showed up at 25 Lake St. last week to do her morning shopping and was "shocked," she told Wednesday Journal, to find it shuttered.

"I really think it's a tremendous loss because, in this economy, I thought Aldi was really a nice store for staple items," said Wollenberg, an Oak Park resident for five years.

According to a company spokeswoman, all 10 employees from the Oak Park store will be retained and transferred to a store that the company is opening this Thursday, March 11, at 1440 N. Kostner in Chicago's Hermosa neighborhood.

The Oak Park store was closed Feb. 21. About a week before, Oak Park's Aldi was closed just for renovations. But the Batavia, Ill.-based chain found those changes were going to cost far more than expected and it was decided instead to close the store entirely, said Aldi spokeswoman Martha Swaney.

She could not specify what type of repairs were sought for the store in Oak Park. Back in 2006, Aldi had ambitious plans to expand. According to a Wednesday Journal report at the time, there were plans to add a rooftop parking deck in Oak Park in addition to beer and wine. The rooftop deck would have been the first of its kind in the country.

An Aldi official had said in 2006 that Oak Park's store was too small, not allowing the chain to stock many of its core items.

Swaney said the Oak Park's Aldi, which opened in 1988, did not close because of its sales numbers. The grocer is looking for a new location within the village, Swaney said, but she could not provide a timetable for that search.

"We're certainly looking to continue expanding in Oak Park, and we're definitely looking forward to selecting a new location and developing a new store," she said.

Village hall has been working with Aldi since the closing to help find a new location, said Loretta Daly, business services manager for Oak Park. She says Aldi has explored renting an existing space as well as building a new store.

Some nearby Aldis listed on the company's Web site are at 5629 W. Fillmore in Chicago, 215 W. Madison in Maywood and 2000 S. Harlem in North Riverside.

The start of Aldi originates all the way back to 1913, when German brothers Theo and Karl Albrecht got the business going in the town of Essen, later starting in the U.S. in 1976. Aldi is short for Albrecht Discounts. The growing chain of stores has more than 1,000 in the U.S. and more than 7,000 worldwide, according to its Web site.

CONTACT: mstempniak@wjinc.com

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