VIDEO, PHOTOS & STORY -- Hundreds of customers lined up for prize drawings, free reusable shopping bags and to shop at the new store in the Simon's Corner shopping center on U.S. Route 13, near Wawa and WSFS Bank.

More than 100 people lined up before the grand opening of the new ALDI grocery store in Smyrna at 8:45 this morning.

The store offered the first 100 customers the chance to enter the "golden ticket" drawing for $100 and offered free reusable shopping bags to the first 1,000 people entering the store. Customers could also enter a prize drawing to win a year of free fruits and vegetables.

Adrienne Woodard said she was glad to have an ALDI store closer to her home, after shopping at ALDIs in Elkton, Maryland and Middletown.

"This is two minutes from my house," Woodard said. "I love the produce here. The produce is the best."

June Cella also appreciated the location of the store in the Simon's Corner shopping center just off of southbound U.S. Route 13, near the south Smyrna entrance/exit, Wawa and WSFS Bank.

"This 91-year old lady is very tired of dragging her cart across Route 13 to go shopping," said Cella. "It's great to have a store so close."

This is the company's fourth Delaware store, part of a $3.4 billion expansion to reach a total of 2,500 stores nationwide by the end of 2022.

Founded by the Albrecht family in 1961 in Germany, the company opened its first store in the United States in 1976 in Iowa. It's U.S. headquarters is in Batavia, Illinois and the company now has more than 1,800 stores in 35 states, employing over 25,000 people in the U.S.

In Delaware, ALDI also has stores in Camden, Middletown and near Stanton west of Wilmington, with another under construction in Dover on southbound U.S. Route 13 near Division Street.

At the grand opening ceremony for the Smyrna store this morning, district manager Phil Stauss welcomed customers and led the ribbon cutting with store manager Jennifer Jarvis.

"We're excited to offer high quality and low prices and the great ALDI shopping experience to our customers here in the Smyrna community," Stauss said.

He said the store, which is smaller than a typical supermarket, is designed to help shoppers find the items they're looking for quickly, with wide aisles. The company focuses on the main items on most grocery shoppers' lists such as milk, bread, meats, fruits and vegetables.

ALDI partners with a wide variety of growers, including some local farmers, to offer a wide variety of fresh, in-season produce, including organic fruits and vegetables.

"From USDA Choice meats to gluten-free and organic foods, we are committed to bringing our shoppers the highest quality products at the lowest possible prices," the website said.

Each week, the stores also offer "ALDI Finds," dozens of food and non-food products that include everything from small kitchen appliances and seasonal items to outdoor furniture and gardening tools. Right now, the store has items in stock for the holidays like toys and gifts such as candles and perfume sets.

What makes ALDI different?

ALDI stores have three main differences compared to other grocery stores.

First, customers are asked to deposit a quarter to get a cart, and then they get the quarter back when they return the cart. That cuts down on the number of carts in the parking lot and cuts costs for the store because they don't have to have an employee out in the parking lot gathering carts very often.

Second, shoppers may not yet be familiar with the brands of products. More than 90 percent of the groceries are under ALDI exclusive brand names, hand-selected by ALDI to ensure the products meet or exceed the national brands on taste, quality and price, according to the ALDI website.

Third, with bagging, the store asks customers to bring their own bags or buy a reusable bag, and to bag their own groceries. As mentioned, the store is also giving away reusable bags to the first 1,000 customers today.

The reasons for these approaches were explained by ALDI Center Valley Division Vice President Bob Grammer.

"We want everyone to have high-quality food at affordable prices. That's why we do everything we do," said Grammer. "We are private-label pioneers and have decades of experience satisfying shoppers. We make great food with the best partners, and we guarantee the quality of our private-label products. If for any reason shoppers don’t like an ALDI-exclusive product, we’ll give them their money back and replace the item."

The system for carts and bags helps provide lower prices, he said.

"ALDI streamlines its approach to staffing, creating cost-saving efficiencies that are passed onto customers," said Grammer.

Items are usually displayed in their shipping boxes to help save time restocking shelves.

The new store by the numbers

The Smyrna ALDI employs about 20 workers, Stauss said.

Hours are Mondays to Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The store has about 12,000 square feet of retail space.

Smyrna Planning and Zoning Manager Win Abbott said the building is 22,245 square feet total, including storage and offices.

There are 112 parking spaces, Abbott said.

Grammer said the Smyrna location was selected for several reasons.

"We want the best sites that are closest to our shoppers and can support a high daily traffic volume," Grammer said. "As the demand for ALDI grows, so do our real estate options. Bottom line, we want to be conveniently located for our shoppers. Our innovative approach has made us one of the fastest-growing retailers in the U.S., and we’re excited to bring ALDI value to the savvy shoppers of Smyrna."