The Albrecht’s – Grocery wisdom

Very few people I talked to have ever heard of Karl and Theo Albrecht, brothers from Germany who have literally changed the thinking of many a grocery shopper.

th-2When I lived in California, I took for granted that Trader Joe’s ™ would always be a part of my life. Then I moved to a little village in Northern Illinois, and much to my disappointment, no Trader Joe’s ™ in a 60 mile radius.

I don’t drive Interstates, as you regular readers know. So my options were few, so I thought, in getting the special brands I used to thrive on. I felt relegated to the basic grocery store in town, where no Pirate Booty™ existed, nor fresh wild salmon at amazing prices, nor microbrews, nor German chocolates with a deliciousness not found at Hershey’s™, or often even at Ghirardelli’s™. I got used to it, gained 20 pounds (also due to the fact of winter, where walking three miles a day in ice and snow was not likely to happen.)

Then I moved to Connecticut. Also to small town, where, evidently no market was attractive to ™Trader Joe’s, enough to plant a store within 25 miles of my house. Sad. But true.

I was chatting with my California youngest daughter one day, one of the foodies in our family, and she gave me some amazing information:

“Did you know, Ma, that there are two brothers from Germany, who came from an entreprennuerial family, and wealth, but couldn’t agree on their grocery store ambitions for a business model, so they split the business into two, and each did his own business model–one upscale wholesale groceries, the other more basic wholesale, but still specialty groceries, where the emphasis was on affordability.”mk-at857_aldi_g_20090112172432

“No, I did not know that,” I replied. Who are they?

“The Albrecht Brothers.” One started Trader Joe’s (Theo),

and the other (Karl) branded Aldi’s.  th

th-1      Sadly, Karl, at 94, the Aldi’s brother, has now also died, in 2014.

Forbes ranked his net worth at about $26 Billion. Theo, died in 2010, with a net worth of about $16B.

Both stores grew to global popularity, and the brothers also brought the idea of discount grocery to Europe.

But, what I did with my daughter’s information, was to take another look at Aldi’s, which is present both in my Enfield, CT town, and was present close to home, had I realized the offering, in Northern, IL.

After all, if I can’t drive myself to TJ’s, I could at least check out, what I imagined to be the next best thing.

On my shopping trip with my new, more appreciative eye, I did, indeed, discover things I had not discerned before I was armed with knowledge.

Aldi’s™ prices, for one thing, are not just about affordability, they are also about offering high quality at wholesale prices. Gourmet cheeses, produce, cereals, and that amazing German chocolate are there. The chocolate bars, for instance, are $1.99, where the same type of American bar sells for at least $2.50 on a good day, and $3.00 typically. Produce, like pineapple’s are $1.39 rather than the $2.99-$3.99 even at Costco, which I love.

Before I had just written off the store as a warehouse grocery, without anything special to offer.

But, now I saw that the variety and the number of specialty items, though not what you find at TJ’s, is pretty special.

Aldi’s™ gives consumers these great deals by cutting costs on consumer amenities, charging for shopping carts, shopping bags, and not taking credit cards. (They do accept debits.)

So if you need the luxury accoutrement with your luxury foods, this isn’t the idea at Aldi’s.

But if you want deeply discounted goat cheese, and you bring your own bag, you will be very happy.  300x300px-LS-847cbdbc_1209646410_Ai_FWLNCAAE4MU3.jpg-large

Not sure if the business models will continue to thrive, with the passing of the two founders, but I hope so. These men, who began all of this post-WWII, made a big impression on American and European shoppers.

I don’t plan to ever move back to California, now that we have our wonderful River House. And, on my semi-annual trips to Calif., to see the kids and grands, I really didn’t like stuffing my already sparse luggage space, with goodies from my favorite California store.

Now I don’t have to.