Crowds pack Culpeper Lidl opening

Jeff Say
Lidl opened its Culpeper location Thursday morning, as more than 500 customers waited in line to check out the new grocery store.

Culpeper loves Lidl.

The German grocer opened its Culpeper location Thursday morning and a line of more than 500 people wrapped around the building, waiting to see what deals awaited them.

The Culpeper location was part of a second wave of openings on U.S. soil, with 10 opening last month. Four new locations, including Culpeper, opened this week and the excitement was palatable among shoppers.

Heidi Thornhill was born in Germany and knew of the grocery store through her sister.

“They have one outside of Munich,” she said, as she waited in line with her husband Dave. “I’m hoping they have German food.”

Dave Thornhill remembers when the land that Lidl now sits was farmland, and marveled at the modern, glass-lined building that now sits there.
“I’m excited,” he said. “It gives us more choices and it I hope it’s here a long time.”

The Culpeper and American locations differ from the European model, Megan Sizemore, director of real estate for Lidl, said. The Culpeper store is 36,000 square feet, which is a larger footprint than stores in Europe.

Headquartered in Arlington, Lidl US decided to open its first round of stores in Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina for distribution purposes. Culpeper fit right into that theme.

“We just think it’s a vibrant town and we looked at it from a distribution perspective and where we want to locate stores,” Sizemore said.

Culpeper Mayor Mike Olinger was ecstatic as he hosted the ribbon cutting Thursday morning.

Jeff Say

“It’s a very exciting economic opportunity,” Culpeper Mayor Mike Olinger said. “After last month, they postponed their first opening and people have been asking me when they were going to be opening. People are excited to have a different experience.”

Culpeper Chamber of Commerce CEO/President Sandy Boone said it was exciting any time a new business came to Culpeper, but was amazed at the public’s response to Lidl opening.

“It’s extremely flattering for Culpeper to be one of the first 14 stores in the country,” Boone said. “They have partnered with some local nonprofits to do volunteer work. “They really believe in investing in the community.”

The store design

Walking into the Culpeper Lidl location, the first aspect that strikes visitors is the light. Glass walls line the building, bringing a light, airy feel to the shopping experience.

“Lidl is really proud to be offer quality at low prices with efficient shopping experience and responsibly sourced products,” Jessica Haggard, public relations specialist for Lidl, said.

As soon as customers walk in the doors, they are met with fresh produce and baked goods. Haggard said Lidl is especially proud of the bakery, where she pointed out the quality of items like the butter croissants, made with 24 percent butter.

The produce is displayed in its original containers, not stacked in a traditional pyramid like other grocery stores. That allows employees to focus more on the customer and helping them with their shopping experience.

Jeff Say

Culpeper’s Lidl employs between 35-50 people, who were eagerly helping customers Thursday morning.

Haggard explained that 90 percent of the items offered are store brand and that 80 percent of that is sourced from the United States. Lidl will offer five specials that will rotate every Monday and Thursday, featuring deeply discounted items. Other offerings include locally sourced tomatoes from a farmer in Dublin, Va.

Another design element of the store that will strike customers is the ability to get most of their shopping done in one fell swoop. The first aisle of the store includes coffee, produce, meat, fresh breads, deli items and much more.

“It’s another aspect of the efficiency model that Lidl wants to bring to the shopping experience,” Haggard said.

Pineapples were available for .89 cents Thursday while other fresh offering like blueberries were $1.49 a package. Popular items such as Utz potato chips were as low as $1.99 and bacon sold for $3.89 a package.

Lidl is also the first retailer to offer third party certified fresh and frozen seafood.

Once all the essentials are purchased, there are other items such as coffee makers, juicers, grills and even golf clubs available. When customers are ready to check out, they provide their own bags and pack their own groceries.

“The idea of bringing your own bag is a concept that is still new to some states,” Haggard said. “Here at Lidl we want our shoppers to know they are only paying for what’s in their shopping cart. We’re a transparent company and want our shoppers to know there is no cost we are pushing on to them.”

Lidl plans to have 100 stores open nationwide by next summer, and will have 21 opened by the end of this summer. Three more openings are planned for next week and four more the week following that.

Melinda Crafton, of Richmond, visited the Culpeper store Thursday as a sneak peek of what she has in store in two weeks. Lidl will open a location close to her in the fourth wave of store openings.

“We’re really excited,” she said. “I hope they do well. I think the bakery will be a big difference. I think the consumer is going to be very pleased.”

Lidl is open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. The store is located at 15169 Brandy Rd, Culpeper.