The most recent change is the closing of McDonald's. The restaurant closed more than a week ago, but in the few minutes that I stopped to take this picture, two drivers entered the drive-thru before seeing the orange traffic cone.
This picture shows the construction taking place at the former Magruder's location. An Aldi grocery store will be opening in this spot in the near future. A story from last May in the Gazette indicated that the store will be open by the end of the year, but that timeline seems unlikely given the current state of the renovations.
Aldi is a discount grocery store based in Germany. The Aldi name is a short version of Albrect Discount. The company was founded by brothers Theo and Karl Albrecht.
I've never been in an Aldi store, but from what I've read on the Web, the Aldi shopping experience is different than shopping at Safeway or Giant. Aldi grocery stores are characterized by the following.
- Aldi doesn't carry popular brands. Most items are sold under the Aldi store brand.
- The lack of brand choices keeps the stores smaller than traditional US grocery stores.
- In the US, only cash and debit cards can be used for purchases. Until recently, only cash was accepted.
- Customers have to pay a quarter deposit to use a grocery cart, and the deposit is returned when the customer returns the cart.
- Customers are expected to bring their own bags. Forgetful customers can purchase bags in the store.
- The stores don't have bakery or deli departments.
- Stores do carry produce, although the selection is very limited, and refrigerated displays aren't used.
There is some discussion on the Web about the relationship between Aldi and Trader Joe's. Some people claim that they are owned by the same company, and some people claim that some of the same products are found in both stores with different packaging.
The ownership of the stores is a confusing tale. The original Aldi chain was divided into two companies in the 1960s when brothers Theo and Karl Albrecht had a dispute. The two legally separate entities became known as Aldi Nord and Aldi Sud, although the companies did work so closely together that they often appeared as one company. The Aldi stores in the US are part of Aldi Sud. Trader Joe's was purchased by Theo Albrecht (the brother associated with Aldi Nord), and an Albrecht family trust owns Trader Joe's today. From a legal perspective, Aldi and Trader Joe's are not owned by the same company, but it's unclear how much cooperation exists between the two companies.
What is clear is that Aldi has a reputation for being a poor person's store, and Trader Joe's is considered to be more upscale. Some people believe that the companies work together to identify potential markets such that a Trader Joe's will never be found near an Aldi grocery store.
Judge for yourself. Here are some of the Maryland Aldi locations:
- District Heights
- Langley Park
- Glen Burnie
- Oxon Hill
And here are some of the Maryland Trader Joe's locations:
- Silver Spring
MOM's Organic Market (My Organic Market) is opening a store in Hilltop Plaza. In a press release announcing the opening of the Bowie store, MOM CEO Steve Nash said the following:
"I was born and raised in Prince George’s County. I am extremely happy to be opening our 2nd store there. The County has been largely ignored by national chains for as long as I can remember and the residents deserve a source for reasonably priced, healthy organic groceries. Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s seem reluctant to open there- and they obviously don’t understand the community."
And what would Hilltop Plaza be without a newly renovated AND expanded Dollar Tree store. Do you think Bethesda has a Dollar Tree store. Hell no!
Other businesses coming to Hilltop Plaza include Walgreens Pharmacy and Fancier Spa & Salon. According to this May, 2009 Gazette article, the owners of Hilltop Plaza are also attempting to change the zoning with the county to allow construction of residential housing on the site.