The opening of an Aldi in Philadelphia's Brewerytown neighborhood is bringing hope to locals who say they're stuck in a food desert.
"We really needed it," said Margaret White, who pointed out that the closest grocery store to their neighborhood is at Broad and Oxford, a mile and a half away. "It's going to help people in the neighborhood."
The Aldi replaces a Bottom Dollar that shuttered several months ago. Three other Aldis opened Thursday in Bordentown, Glassboro and East Windsor, New Jersey.
Aldi, a German chain, acquired a portfolio of former Bottom Dollar stores that closed in late 2014, and says its plan to open a total of 21 grocery stores in former Bottom Dollar locations in the greater Philadelphia area by the end of 2015.
The Brewerytown store was filled with customers on Thursday morning, who were checking out the dirt-cheap foods on sale right out of the cardboard boxes instead of from shelves, as well as fresh produce.
It's a significant change for Brewerytown, a section of North Philly where the majority of food for sale comes from Chinese food restaurants or papi shops.
"The prices are great. It's a blessing for everyone, especially the senior citizens. When Bottom Dollar closed up it took a lot out of the neighborhood," said Brewerytown resident Jeanette Smith, 74.
"I'm just really glad they're here. This area has been a real food desert," said local Barry Parker, 73.
But a fresh food advocate from the nearby North Philly Peace Park said Aldi won't meet all the community's needs.
"It doesn't meet the needs of a full service market, but it's better than the nothing we've been dealing with," said Amia Jackson, an organizer with the park, who said the nearest full-service grocery stores were two buses away from the neighborhood.
The Aldi was also encouraging locals to apply for jobs.
It is one of two stores occupying the Shoppes at Brewerytown plaza, built by Westrum Development. The other business location remains vacant.