Deutsches Einkaufen: New Aldi discounter in Queens!

Aldi is now in Queens! I couldn’t believe it when a fellow co-worker brought with one of my beloved German chocolates to work, claiming he had been shopping at a discounter in Queens. While I had driven past an Aldi in New Jersey two summer years one my way to the Jersey shores, I was rather amused at how far the popular German food store had advanced. However, I would have never thought they made the dream of cheaply imported German merchandise come true, so I had to check out for myself what exactly Aldi has to offer here in the US.

Therefore, today I made my way up to the Rego Park stop on the still significantly impaired R-train. Rego Park is supposedly one of the bigger shopping malls you can find in this borough, together with the Queens Mall shopping center. Aldi was somewhere next to Staples and Payless Shoes. I had troubles finding it at first until I noticed that there are no doors leading to the outside, you indeed have to actually enter the mall. Then I stood in front of it: The brandnew and all-too-familiar sign with the bright orange contour, blue background, and white letters. “Aldi Food Market,”it read, food market being the only term giving away that I was in a foreign country and nowhere close to home.

I then went on, fully entering the twilight zone: The common sight of shopping carts stacked to the side, but no Euro needed to snag one. German Choceur chocolates neatly rowed up in the beginning of the aisle, together with Schogetten, another brand that rings so close to home. True, the selection was tiny compared to what Aldi offers at German stores. Schogetten had three different flavors, whereas it usually offers 7 and more in its country of origin. And right next to the German chocolates? Captain Ahoy’s chocolate chip cookies and other American brands. Gourmet tartar sauce next to Hershey’s ice cream sauce. The list of controversies goes on!

Tartar sauce right next to…
…. Hersheys syrup!

German brands mixed with American goodies – who wouldn’t get confused at first. It took me a while to shut my mouth and actually make it through the entire store to get an overall impression. Of course the fresh produce, such as veggies, fruits, and dairy products, are not imported from across the ocean. However, especially now during the Christmas season you could find German cake and a goodie called “Stollen,” which is a pastry made of raisin bread and filled with either almond paste or other sweets.

Christmassy stuff

Meat and milk comes from the US. I did find gingerbread that was exactly the same I bought when still back home. Even the price was not too much higher for most of the products. Schogetten cost around 80 euro cents, whereas here you can get them for one US Dollar. Stollen is 5 bucks and I believe you get some for almost 4 Euro back home. I overheard a German woman excitedly explaining that this is the real deal back home and that you really have to try it to experience a true German Christmas feeling. I shot her a freaked out look and went on, more uncomfortable than ever.

It appears that the German discounter has been able to successfully apply the concept of keeping the shopping experience cheap in this country. But I was rather baffled when I saw the marketing strategy they use: Aldi Truths! Truth #25, for example, states that “the same is always better when it costs less.” Duh! I am unsure if these truths are also stated in its country of origin, I, however, have never seen them around and have decided not to be a big fan of them.

One of Aldi’s Truths

Regardless of the store not being overly pricy, I still had to pay $15 for a few sweets I bought, and I am certain I would have not spent that much in Germany itself disregarding worldwide inflation and economy crisis. An ecofriendly Aldi paper bag costs 6 cent, but you have to be careful as the paper is rather thin and if you can, get more than one. The best is simply to carry your own bag with you, as you would in Germany. You can also purchase a cloth bag for the price of $2, but I opted against it, since I am too embarrassed to don’t want to be running around with an Aldi bag when I do regular food shopping.

Even though I would have thought to be less homesick and more pro-American Aldi before I visited this store, the opposite effect showed: I am actually not sure I ever want to go back for fear of spoiling all the reasonably good memories of the real German Aldi I am used to. It was more of a bizarre experience to shop among English-speaking people in a store that offers a few German products, half of which are made in factories in Illinois or Mexico, despite the German name attached to it. The products have an English packaging and nutrition information is giving according to standards in America, not Europe.

Christmassy stuff

The entire shopping experience painfully reminded me of the analogy of Coca Cola: You might be able to buy it everywhere but it does not necessarily evoke a feeling of being at home. On the contrary, it can let you wonder how far American thinking can spoil your feeling in pride of German merchandise.

Oh, and after reading some reviews on Yelp, I guess American consumers think it is a huge deal that cashier’s can sit. I guess it can be…

But get your own impression of things! Aldi has now also opened doors in Manhattan as of October of this year. Find more infos on their Web site at Happy shopping!

No German words included in this post for fear of losing my mind!

6 thoughts on “Deutsches Einkaufen: New Aldi discounter in Queens!

  1. Very cool! My family tells me that they opened an Aldi in my hometown (in Michigan) too, and they love it. You describe it perfectly! (by the way, I am an American living in Germany… so it is interesting for me to see German stores opening up in my “homeland”… hee hee)

    • I know, right? It’s also interesting for me to see German stores opening up in the US of A. However, with different feelings attached – I cannot stop comparing how “wrong” everything feels, is, and looks. 😉

  2. Congratulations on an excellent site on NYC. I’m so pleased to find you. As someone who lived in NYC for 15 years you bring back familar places….except this one. There was no Aldi there 8 years ago. Costco was our favorite. But the irony is since returning to Australia without Costco there are Aldi’s everywhere here. Now I live just 3 minutes from one….and love it. Not as big as Costco but full of wonderful products at great prices and 90 day return policy. It leaves the rest for dead. Best wishes, Robert

    • haha, that’s awesome! I’ve actually never been to a Costco here in New York (have not yet bought a membership and don’t think I will) but heard good things from fellow New Yorkers about this magical store (huge nutella glasses for only 8 bucks). However, I was rather shocked by Aldi and would have rather not set foot in it. Then again, I also had to make my way up to Queens (coming from Brooklyn), so maybe that was part of the discouraging journey…
      Thanks for your comment and I hope all is well in DownUnder!

  3. I was surprised when I saw Aldi here at first because I hadn’t realized it was a German chain lol. I used to shop there occasionally in the States but haven’t yet been to the German one (we usually stop at Kaufland or Rewe for groceries). I don’t remember the cashiers sitting at the ones I had been to but they did have the cart system they have here and require people to bring their own bags (the latter of which some people initially disliked lol). I think the cashiers being able to sit as they do most everywhere I’ve shopped here should be implemented in America. I don’t know why some places have the crazy idea that standing=professionalism but it’s silly.

  4. Aldi in Queens…. what’s next? Hofbräuhaus in Central Park?…. now there’s an idea 🙂
    Excellent, this is good to know. An interesting fact is that the idea of this discounter (which has been around als long as I can think) made Karl Albrecht (founder) the 10th richest man in the world.
    Greetings from Germany

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