Discount supermarket eyes Riverhead for new store

01/31/2012 2:03 PM |

COURTESY PHOTO | An example of an Aldi market.

An international specialty supermarket is looking to come to Riverhead.

It’s not Trader Joe’s, which some Riverhead residents have been trying to lure to the town for years, having even started an online petition and a Facebook site – called the “Trader Joe’s Riverhead, NY Location Request Group.”-  for that purpose.

But it’s close. Well, sort of.

Instead, it’s Aldi Supermarkets, a Germany-based discount supermarket chain founded by Karl Albrech, who is reportedly the richest man in Germany. His brother Theo, who died in 2010 at the age of 88, was the owner of the Trader Joe’s chain, and was reportedly the second-richest man in Germany when he died.

Aldi has about 1,400 stores nationwide and one on Long Island, a Bay Shore store that opened in 2010. Rather than stocking name-brand products, most of what Aldi sells is its own brand, which is often priced lower than its competitors, according to reports.

Leanne Wheeler met with the town planning department at its work session Tuesday morning on behalf of the Aldi chain, which she said is considering three sites in Riverhead, all along Route 58.

One would be the proposed Shops at Riverhead development on the north side of Route 58, between Out East Family Fun and Riverhead Auto Mall. That site is slated to include a Costco warehouse store at its anchor, and is advertising for additional tenants. It has yet to be approved by the town Planning Board, and was undergoing an environmental impact study the past two years, a draft of which was recently submitted.

Another proposed location is directly across the street from that, on what is now an application called the Saber-Riverhead LLC, which proposed three storefronts are proposed in a 114,000 square foot building. That site had been in litigation for many years, as its previous owner, a group including realtor Larry Oxman, was charged with illegally clearing the land seven years ago and has been in court with the town ever since. They lost the property to foreclosure,  and Saber-Riverhead acquired it.

The third potential site, Ms. Wheeler said, is the Target shopping center, where property owner Serota and Son acquired two residences on Harrison Avenue several years for expansion of the shopping center, but has yet to build anything there.

Aldi is seeking about 16,000 square feet for a supermarket, Ms. Wheeler said.

“Have you thought about downtown?” planning director Rick Hanley asked Ms. Wheeler. Officials have been trying to lure a supermarket downtown for years.

“We typically do best with other national retailers,” she respond, saying that being near other large chain stores gives them the best opportunity to capture potential customers.

Ms. Wheeler also was asked if Aldi’s is similar to Trader Joe’s.

“Trader Joe’s is more organic and eclectic,” Mr. Wheeler said. “We carry the mainstream products.”

So far, the Trader Joe’s fans have had no success getting that chain to come to Riverhead or elsewhere on the East End. The nearest Trader Joe’s store is in Lake Grove.

tgannon@timesreview.com