Shop talk: Maybe it was pent-up demand, curiosity or all the opening day giveaways. Whatever the reason, hundreds of shoppers descended Thursday on Aldi for the grocery store’s opening in Palmer Plaza, 3442 Palmer Highway in Texas City.

In the era of super-sized supermarkets with overwhelming product offerings, Aldi, which operates a store in Kemah, bills itself as offering a more streamlined, simple approach to shopping with a few select national brands and its own private label.

To keep down prices, Aldi charges a 25-cent cart rental fee and asks shoppers to bag their own groceries. The store also carries random items it calls “Aldi Finds,” which include premium food or household items, such as Dutch ovens around Thanksgiving, for limited times.

Aldi joins a fresh lineup of retailers at the 98,816-square-foot Palmer Plaza that Houston-based Edifis Group is redeveloping.

Edifis Group acquired Palmer Plaza shopping center in 2016. The center was built in 1987. Ross Dress for Less opened last month and crews have demolished the building formerly occupied by Baytown Seafood to make way for a Chick-fil-A. Existing tenant Dollar Tree is moving within the shopping center.

The Goodwill Select Store and Donation Center closed at the shopping center in February, citing issues with lease negotiations.

Catch of the day: Meanwhile, after leaving Palmer Plaza to make way for Chick-fil-A, Baytown Seafood found a new home and has reopened at 3501 Palmer Highway, in the former site of Lee’s Oriental Buffet. Lee’s Oriental Buffet surprised many mainlanders by closing earlier this year.

Not in the bag: As the opening of Aldi generates much mainland buzz, islanders are wondering when the grocer will open in Galveston. The Texas City store was part of a $3.4 billion investment to expand to 2,500 stores nationwide by the end of 2022.

The German discount supermarket chain with 1,800 U.S. stores has long sought an island site. But one specific site it’s interested in is in real estate limbo.

The Galveston Housing Authority two years ago submitted a plan to sell a 12-acre tract, 5228 Broadway, which is the site of the former Oleander Homes public housing project demolished after Hurricane Ike damaged it in 2008.

Aldi and hardware store McCoy’s Building Supply both indicated interest in the land. McCoy’s, which operates at 7500 Broadway, wants to expand. Although Galveston is required to replace public housing demolished because of the storm, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development deemed the Oleander Homes site unsuitable for public housing. Yet, the federal government hasn’t shown any signs of approving the authority’s request to sell it to commercial interests, which would put the land on the tax rolls.

But city officials say Aldi hasn’t lost interest in Galveston. Stay tuned.

Waitr for it: Driven by quick success in Galveston, island-born billionaire Tilman Fertitta has crossed the causeway to launch food delivery service Waitr in Texas City.

The Waitr app lets people order from a restaurant, then sends a Waitr driver to deliver the food to a house or business for a flat $5 fee.

Fertitta in July officially launched the app in Galveston. Waitr officially debuted in Texas City last week.

Waitr last week said it was the top food delivery service in the Galveston area with more than half of restaurant deliveries going through its app. More than 70 area restaurants are using the service, the company said.

Mainland restaurants already signed on include Los Aztecas Bar & Grill, Mr. Tamal, La Plaza Food, Mama Frances Soul Kitchen, Nopalera Grill, Edo Japan, Casa Fiesta, Refresqueria con Limón y Sal, Rosario’s Flying Pizza & Italian Restaurant, Stuttgarden Tavern, Antonini Subs, Bake Me A Dream and Campeche Coffee Etc., among others.

Waitr expects to hire 100 people in the Texas City area, the company said.

Fertitta in May agreed to buy Waitr for $308 million, news agency Bloomberg reported. The deal was managed through Fertitta’s Landcadia Holdings, which changed its name to Waitr.

Bar hopping: Is the island’s downtown soon to be home to a new bar? Looks that way. A banner at 2325 Strand states: “Playground Patio Bar Opening Spring 2019.”

Rumor has it island businessman Allen Flores is behind this concept. The building was formerly occupied by Portside Bar & Clothing Co., which closed about three weeks ago. Flores owns La Vida Clothing, Bliss Lounge and the popular Shark Shack Beach Bar & Grill with Bebob Neumann.

Laura Elder: 409-683-5248; laura.elder@galvnews.com

Managing Editor

(1) comment

Louis Wortham

Aldi does have a cart rental fee but it is refundable. Here's how is works: you put a quarter in a slot attached to a cart outside the store on your way into the store, use the cart, and when you're done with the cart you can return and secure it to the queue of carts outside the store and your quarter (the very one you inserted) is thereby returned. This way Aldi spends almost no money on having someone return carts to customer service in the store. Good policy. Fewer expenses lowers prices. And there is rarely an abandoned cart in the parking lot to ding up your car, block your parking space, etc.

You also get to bag your own purchases with your own bag. So Aldi doesn't have to pay someone to bag your purchases, again lowering expenses and hence prices. And, of course, reusing your bag is good for the environment. If you forget to bring your own bags, they will sell you one really cheap, as little as 10 cents. If you want to buy one of the insulating bags for frozen stuff (the kind that you can buy at Kroger for $1.99) that'll set you back about 70 cents. When I've managed to both forget my bags and don't want to buy any, I've usually been able to get all my purchases to the car by using the cart and the boxes that Aldi will let you have for free, if any are available. These would be the boxes that their merchandize is shipped to the store in. I guess this also lowers Aldi expenses associated with getting rid of shipping boxes. But you'll have to see to it that any boxes you take get properly recycled, so....

Yeah, the place is different but there are some great deals. Hoping for one in Galveston soon.

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