In the Know: Will Publix open GreenWise grocery stores to replace Lucky's? Also, Aldi talks about its plans.
You ask for Trader Joe's and you get his not-as-hip brother Aldi — and somehow, more Publixes.
That's the sentiments of at least a few readers.
Kind of like expecting Sylvester Stallone, and in comes Frank. Thinking you have tickets for Janet Jackson, and LaToya shows up. You search for DiMaggio highlights on YouTube, and there's Dom and Vince instead of Joe.
But Aldi is doing just fine thank you, like the Casey Afflecks, Jerry Van Dykes, Clint Howards, Lionel Barrymores and Charlie Murphys of the world.
This week's announced half-dozen Lucky's Market acquisitions by Aldi U.S., which has a connection to Trader Joe's, reflects the low-cost German grocery chain's rapid ascent in Florida with bigly aspirations, believe me.
One of the late German brothers behind Aldi bought Trader Joe's in 1979. Also two separate Aldi companies that were controlled by the brothers operate stores here.
Collier and Lee counties already have nine and more may be coming. The question remains where, although Aldi did confirm Tuesday morning with In the Know that the new deals are in the state.
"Aldi is acquiring several Lucky’s Market locations in Florida," said Dan Gavin, vice president of national real estate for Aldi U.S. "We are on track to become the third-largest U.S. grocery retailer by store count by 2022."
Lucky's local collapse "is a perfect opportunity for Aldi," said Naples analyst Karl M. Gibbons, "at relatively low cost."
Sites are ready to go, fixtures and fittings are in place and there's the attractive opportunity for trained staff members who would just need "minor re-orientation and focusing" to return to the same address, said Gibbons, the self-described business growth architect for Third Eye Management.
At the same time, Publix, the Sunshine State staple, wants a bigger part of the organic food and wellness product world of Aldi, Trader Joe's and Sprouts.
Even though Publix isn't saying, that would explain its confirmed pickup of the vacating East Naples Lucky's at 3815 Tamiami Trail E., which is about half the size of its typical footprint.
It's "likely for the Publix GreenWise concept," said Patrick Fraley, principal for the Investment Properties Corporation of Naples. Fraley has the other Collier Lucky's vacancy of his own he's trying to fill at Promenade at Naples Centre, about a block from an Aldi off Naples Boulevard.
As a Publix shopper, you can't miss the GreenWise label that extols the health qualities of select products. Now imagine a 25,000-square-foot building of those, or simply go visit one.
Three of these six outlets, opened within about the last year, can be found on the peninsula: Boca Raton, Lakeland and Tallahassee, with another half-dozen going up including the nearest in Tampa and Fort Lauderdale. Even Publix has to sometimes close a spot: At the end of 2018, Publix padlocked a GreenWise in Palm Beach Gardens that had been operating since 2007.
But Publix's green has not turned into the Lucky's red that resulted in a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing including plans to shutter 32 of 39 locales on Feb. 12. Lucky's also dropped three under construction or nearly complete venues in North Naples, Cape Coral and Fort Myers.
With up to 25,000 creditors, Lucky's says it has as little as $100 million in assets and as much as $1 billion in liabilities. Chapter 11 means the Lucky's is trying to get a handle on costs and reorganize, and court approval would be needed for the Aldi and Publix bargains.
As the pair continue their expansion, they're tied for third place on the most recent American Customer Satisfaction Index. But that might be too much of a good thing for some shoppers wanting variety and a change of pace in their daily experiences.
They have their eye on Aldi's' moreflashy sibling that's at the top of the survey, ahead of Wegmans, another supermarket powerhouse I've reported on extensively as part of your wish lists shared in emails and on the Naples Daily News Facebook page.
"There are Aldis everywhere," said reader Melanie Lauwers. "More Trader Joe’s please."
"We don't need more Aldis," said Robert Gagauf of Naples.
"Everyone I know would love to have a Trader Joe’s in Cape Coral," resident Patricia Gilbert said Tuesday.
Whether that might happen at the half-built former Lucky's structure at Veterans Parkway and Santa Barbara Boulevard remains an unknown. Developer Dan Creighton had no new information Tuesday.
And Benderson Development Co., which had the third Collier Lucky's that was set to debut in North Naples and several other sites in Venice, Sarasota and the Tampa Bay area, isn't answering any of the public's questions.
Based on Trader Joe's recent comments to In the Know of no planned stores here, Southwest Florida residents will have to settle for wandering the packed parking lot outside the Naples TJ's off Tamiami Trail and Creekside Boulevard.
Based at the Naples Daily News, Columnist Phil Fernandez (firstname.lastname@example.org) writes In the Know as part of the USA TODAY NETWORK. Support Democracy and subscribe to a newspaper.