Aldi expands into Athens, Tennessee, as German-based grocery chain grows across America

This June 5, 2017, photo, shows signage at an Aldi food market, in Salem, N.H. Discounter Aldi, one of the no-frills European chains that offer low prices but far fewer options, and mostly its own brands, is putting the pressure on traditional grocers. Aldi expects to have 2,500 U.S. stores by the end of 2022. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

Discount grocer Aldi is expanding into Athens, Tennessee, and will open a new supermarket at 1518 Decatur Pike at 9 a.m. Thursday.

The new Aldi is among 150 new stores the grocery chain plans to open by the end of the year as the Germany-based grocery company seeks to become the nation's third biggest U.S. grocery retailer, behind only Walmart and Kroger. Since entering the Chattanooga market two decades ago, Aldi has grown to include stores in Hixson, Brainerd, Ooltewah, East Brainerd, Fort Oglethorpe, Cleveland and Dalton.

"Our stores are designed to make grocery shopping smarter, faster and easier, and we've been voted the price leader for five years running," Amy Peters, the regional vice president for ALDI, said in an announcement of the new store. "We're excited to open our first Aldi store in Athens and introduce local customers to a new, more affordable way of shopping."

Peters said the Aldi business model is designed to be different from other supermarkets, offering affordable and different food options than most of its competitors. Aldi sells mostly exclusive brands made by its business partners.

Depositing a quarter to unlock a shopping cart is also a way Aldi works to save shoppers money. Aldi doesn't need to hire employees to corral loose carts, and customers get their quarter back when they return the cart, Peters said.

A typical Aldi store is approximately 12,000 square feet of retail space, which is smaller than most of its competitors.

The first 100 customers to the Athens store on Thursday will receive a gift card as a part of the Aldi Golden Ticket gift card giveaway program. Shoppers can also enter a sweepstakes for a chance to win a $500 Aldi gift card.

The new store will be open daily from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Nearly all Aldi locations also offer grocery delivery, and curbside grocery pickup is expanding to 1,500 stores by the end of 2022. Consumers can visit to place an order.

With 2,200 stores across 38 states, Aldi is on track to become the third-largest grocery retailer by store count by the end of 2022.

- Compiled by Dave Flessner