Those of you who read my deathless prose (I know you’re out there) may recall that I promised a few months ago that the Weavers Way Ambler store would NOT, no, no, never be in the building on Butler Avenue formerly known as Bottom Dollar.
Is my face red. Let me explain.
Nearly as long as Weavers Way has been thinking about opening an Ambler store, the old Bottom Dollar at 217 E. Butler Ave. has been owned by Aldi Corp., they of Aldi’s and Trader Joe’s. Aldi bought a bunch of Bottom Dollars when the company that ran them, Delhaize America, shut down the chain in 2014. They turned some of them into Aldis. Not the one at Chew and Washington in East Mt. Airy, and not the one in Ambler, either.
We did inquire. Silence. Eventually we were told that Aldi would only rent to a non-grocery operation, and was talking to RiteAid.
We scouted other locations nearby. The old Catholic school (then-marketing director Rebecca Torpie thought she smelled chalk). The old borough hall (which used to house the Police Department and still had several lockups in the basement — much hilarity about what we could do with those). And the partly empty building across the street from the Ambler Theater, the one with the yoga studio upstairs and the pizza restaurant next door. That building? Ambler’s original Acme. It had a reasonable amount of space, some parking, better access for trucks than either of our current stores and a landlord who was willing to work with us. Oh, and a creek called Tannery Run in the basement, but what can you do. Former Mt. Airy grocery manager Heather Carb started working on plans and logistics and we signed a contingency lease.
Now, I’m not drawing any conclusions about the timing, and Aldi doesn’t talk about things like that, but right after we signed the contingency lease, Aldi decided that maybe Weavers Way Ambler might be a tenant worth negotiating with after all.
So all summer, Jon Roesser weighed these two competing alternatives. One an OK location with a willing landlord, the other a better site, from a grocery-store point of view, with a landlord of excruciating slowness. But another issue kept creeping in: If we didn’t move into the old Bottom Dollar, who would? What if one of the fancy new small-format organic ’n’ natural chains, like Sprouts, or Mom’s, or Everything Fresh?
So ultimately, the scale tipped toward 217 E. Butler. It will be a challenge — it’s bigger than our two current stores combined — but in staff meetings, employees who handle deliveries were positively giddy at the prospect of a real loading dock.
So keep that in mind until, God willing and Tannery Run don’t rise, we open our glorious new third store in the spring.