The Aldi store in north Minneapolis — one of the area's only full-service grocery stores — is closing, upsetting neighbors who count on it for inexpensive produce and goods.
"North Minneapolis is considered one of the largest food deserts in the United States," said Anna Gerdeen, whose Camden Collective donates groceries every Saturday to 140 families. "Now, with Aldi closing, it's kind of a disaster for us, especially up in our area."
Aldi posted a flyer at the store saying it will close its doors for the last time Sunday at 5 p.m.
In a statement to the Star Tribune, the company said: "Aldi has made the difficult decision to close our store at 3120 Penn Avenue N. in Minneapolis due to the inability to renovate the store to accommodate our larger product range and our current lease term expiring."
The company noted it has five other locations "within a 15-minute drive of this location."
But that's not how many residents in the surrounding neighborhoods shop, said Jay Dorsey, who purchased his home across the street from the store in 2010. The proximity to Aldi was a selling point and many residents often travel there by bus or by foot.
Now, he faces taking two bus lines to get to Cub Foods, two miles to the south, or North Market, two miles to the north.
"I'm more concerned for the community," he said. "[Aldi] was on two bus lines, one on Lowry, one on Penn," he said. "It was some of the only cheap prices in the community."
Demand for donated groceries from Camden Collective is extremely high right now, Gerdeen said.
"I know that a lot of the families around here are transit dependent or walking because they take the bus to [pick up free groceries] on Saturdays," Gerdeen said. Her organization is trying to raise money for more staff and hours.
As inflation crushed household budgets in 2022, it's not just Camden Collective that saw soaring demand for donated food. Minnesota's nearly 400 food shelves had more than 5.1 million visits last year, according to preliminary data from the nonprofit Hunger Solutions. That's the most in state history by a considerable margin.
Gerdeen predicts many Aldi shoppers likely will take the bus to Walmart in Brooklyn Center for lower prices, rather than travel to Hy-Vee, a little more than a mile away in Robbinsdale or the Cub store on West Broadway, which sits at one of the most violent intersections in the city.
"That also takes the money out of north Minneapolis," she said.
The other remaining nearby grocery in the city, North Market, was started in 2017 by Pillsbury United Communities as a social enterprise effort to fill the gap.
"I'm a single mom. I love North Market. I love it. But I only get produce from North Market on Wednesdays when it's half off," said Gerdeen, who said she has more options than some residents because she owns a vehicle.
David Wellington, president and co-owner of Wellington Management, which owns the building, said Aldi did not offer any specifics about its reasons for closing the location, which opened in 2007.
"I think it was a business decision for them," he said. "They ... weren't sure they could make this one work."
Jeremiah Ellison, a Minneapolis City Council member representing neighborhoods near the store, called the closing a huge loss and said he wishes he had known Aldi was considering leaving so a solution might have been found.
"There's not a ready-made solution to every problem that a business might encounter at the city," he said, "but if a conversation is had and there's an appropriate tool or a new tool that needs to be created, that can happen with some kind of conversation, but only the people with the expertise are going to know how to point us in the right direction."
Wellington Management is talking with other grocers, hoping to fill the space.
"We also know it's an important location for folks shopping in the community and being able to have access to high-quality produce, in particular for a good value, so it's a loss from our perspective and from the broader community's perspective as well," Wellington said.
With more than 2,100 stores across 38 states, Aldi has been opening stores around Minnesota and now has 76 locations, including three others in Minneapolis.
Phil Lempert, editor of Supermarketguru.com, sees sites closing when the grocery isn't profitable and is facing hiring difficulties because of workforce shortages or crime. Even a busy store might not make enough money per transaction for the location to be profitable.
Aldi used to be considered a low-budget option but has focused on quality and efficiency in the past decade, Lempert said.
"Generation Z and millennials have flocked to Aldi and, as a result, some of these stores in the old model of Aldi demographics we are going to see close around the country because there's no growth there," he said.