GREENSBORO — It was a tale of two grocers. Both were a first for the area. Both were eagerly anticipated. And both drew a crowd when they debuted Wednesday morning.
Around 200 people braved frigid temperatures as they waited in line for the opening of Greensboro’s first Lidl at 5696 W. Gate City Blvd.
Just a mile away, dozens of people were also doing the same thing — but for the opening of a new Publix at Grandover Village in Jamestown.
At Lidl, a three-piece band covered Motown hits like “For Once in My Life” while staff handed out croissant bites and served free hot coffee to fight the chill.
“I have never lived by one before, so I’m curious,” Annie Dyer said.
Dyer was waiting to get a free tote bag and a gift card before going into the store. She planned to hit the new Publix afterward.
Over at Publix, members of the Ragsdale High marching drum line performed while customers waited to go inside.
“I’ve never been in one ... but I heard a lot of people talking about it," said Sue Neese, who came from Burlington. "I’ve definitely been looking forward to this.”
After she was done, Neese was headed to — that's right — Lidl.
When the doors to both stores opened, customers anxiously filed inside.
At Lidl, a wall of glass lets in lots of natural light that bathes shelves stocked with boxes of rice cakes, waffle mix, pickles and cereal. About 80% of the merchandise is from the company's private label.
The spacious main aisle — one of only five — greets shoppers with essentials like fresh produce, baked goods, meats and cheeses.
“It’s not like a lot of grocery stores that you go in that have 50 different aisles that you have to navigate through. This is really designed to be fast and easy where you can do a majority of your shopping right away,” said Will Harwood, Lidl's director of communications.
A center island containing cartons of fresh berries and rows of basil plants defy the wintry weather.
Wooden cases of European-style bread and pastries add to the ambiance.
Yolanda Grant had never been inside a Lidl before Wednesday.
“I’ve heard about them, and I’ve heard their quality of fruits and vegetables are better than other grocery stores,” she said.
And that's not the only thing. Need a smoothie maker or a drill press? Lidl has you covered.
Florida-based Publix, on the other hand, is more like a traditional supermarket with mostly brand-name items and a small mix of proprietary labels.
The 49,000-square-foot store in Jamestown can be overwhelming with 14 gleaming aisles of about every grocery item you could need.
Then there's the bakery. It's like a beacon to your palate, offering freshly-prepared cakes and pies.
At the produce section, rows of mangoes, peppers, squash and sweet potatoes from Nash County stand at attention.
The expansive deli section offers plenty of grab-and-go meals from smokehouse meats to signature subs that are so popular they have their own social media tag.
Around 200 cheeses are offered, including affordable private labels like Vintage Havarti.
Stop by Apron’s Kitchen for a cooking demonstration of weekly recipes. If you’re feeling adventurous, grab a recipe card and collect the ingredients for a do-it-yourself gourmet meal.
Jonathan Falkowitz of Greensboro is no stranger to Publix having frequented the High Point and Winston-Salem stores.
“I like this look. It’s a little different from the High Point look,” he said.
Falkowitz doesn’t live in the neighborhood, but he said he’d return to Publix to get items the Jamestown store has that others don't.
“They’ve got the Hebrew National salami. And they carry farmer cheese. It’s a Jewish thing,” he said.
Both Lidl and Publix join Harris Teeter at Adams Farm in a corridor of the city that is rapidly growing.
Both are the latest among a number of niche grocers popping up all over the area.
Last month, the much-anticipated opening of the first Trader Joe’s in Greensboro brought hundreds to the Brassfield Shopping Center on Battleground Avenue.
In August, Sprouts Farmers Market debuted on Battleground Avenue as well.
And in July, Asheville-based Earth Fare opened a new store in High Point.