It seems the rumor mill may have churned up a grain of truth about ALDI coming to town.

There's been some casual community buzz in recent years about the possibility of an ALDI grocery store opening in Detroit Lakes; now, some first-step paperwork has been filed with the city to set just such a project in motion.

It’s still early in the development process, but the plan as proposed today includes construction of a new building for an ALDI at the front end of the Boys & Girls Club Thrift Store parking lot, near the frontage road along Highway 10 West (the thrift store is located where Kmart used to be).

“It’s very exciting news,” said Larry Remmen, community development director for Detroit Lakes. “There’s an application that’s going to be discussed at the Planning Commission meeting on Oct. 22 for a parking variance for the thrift store, so that they can split off a lot for what is anticipated to be an ALDI grocery store.”

That variance application was submitted by the thrift store on Sept. 30, and the next day, Oct. 1, a city staff report was filed recommending approval.

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Two thrift store board members contacted for this story did not return messages by press time.

ALDI Faribault Division Vice President Matt Lilla wrote in an email to the Tribune that ALDI does not have any information to share at this time about the company opening a store in Detroit Lakes, adding, "As soon as there are any updates about ALDI stores in your area, we will reach out."

Information included in the city staff report reveals that the thrift store is planning to parcel off a 2.24-acre site at the front end of its parking lot in order to make room for a new ALDI store building as well as a parking area for ALDI (that would still leave the thrift store with 10.79 acres). The plan would reduce the store’s parking spaces from the 408 it currently has, which is the number required by the city, down to 343. Thus the need for the variance.

When combined with the parking areas for ALDI and the former Sears building next door, the shared lot would have enough parking spaces to accommodate all three properties, with 553 spaces between them -- more than the 541 required. A cross access easement to allow shared parking is part of the proposed plan.

"After construction of ALDI's and revision to existing parking," the variance application states, "(the) thrift store parcel will be 45 spaces under requirement. The ALDI's parcel will meet parking requirement. Sears parcel will exceed requirement."

The city staff report calls the proposed plan for the property "reasonable" and recommends approval of the variance because "it is in harmony with the purpose and intent of (city) ordinance, as the property is currently retail and will continue to be” and “is consistent with the Comprehensive Plan.”

As noted by Remmen, the variance will be reviewed by the Planning Commission at its next regular meeting on Oct. 22. If approved by the commission, it will go to the city council for review there.

ALDI is a grocery retailer with nearly 2,000 stores across 36 states, including stores in Dilworth, Fargo, Fergus Falls and other locations around Minnesota and North Dakota. A Bemidji location is opening this week.

The company aims to save shoppers money by offering mostly private-label, ALDI-exclusive foods and products. According to the company’s website, ALDI is on track to become the third-largest grocery retailer by store count by the end of 2022.