More than 200 people attended the grand opening of ALDI in Van Buren on Thursday, with most of them in line to be the first to shop at the new store.

As part of the grand opening events, ALDI offered “golden ticket” gift cards to the first 100 shoppers worth $10 up to $100. In response, several hundred area people lined up Thursday morning beginning as early as 3 a.m.

Bill Waterman was the first in line to shop at the store and he arrived at about 3 a.m., he said.

“I saw on the Internet a lady that got in a store first that got there at 3 a.m., so I came at three,” Waterman said. “I didn’t want to be a part of the first 100; I wanted to be the first one here.”

Kelly Fortier and Hollie Dobbs were the second and third shoppers to arrive at about 5:20 a.m., they said. They just wanted to be one of the first 100 shoppers to get a shot at a $100 gift card, they said.

All three are “big fans” of ALDI, they said, and are happy to see a store open in Van Buren.

“I hate driving all the way in to Fort Smith, because I live in Kibler and it has to be a special reason for me to go over there,” Fortier said.

“I’m glad to not have to fight the Rogers traffic anymore,” Dobbs said.

Shoppers were welcomed by John Winck, ALDI district manager, who thanked the crowd for welcoming ALDI into the community. Store manager Garret Theiss cut a ceremonial ribbon.

The Van Buren store at 2309 Fayetteville Road is part of an aggressive $3.4 billion investment plan ALDI recently announced to expand to 2,500 stores nationwide by the end of 2022.

ALDI plans to add 25,000 new jobs as part of its expansion, an Aldi media release states. The company currently has more than 1,600 stores in 35 states, serving more than 40 million customers each month.

ALDI is known for its cost-cutting techniques, including its innovative cart system in which shoppers insert a quarter to release a cart from the corral and receive the quarter back upon the cart’s return, an encouraging shopper to bring their own shopping bags by not providing plastic or paper bags to carry out groceries.

A “double guarantee” is offered by Aldi, which means that when a customer is unhappy with a product, they receive a refund and a replacement product.

Van Buren’s store has five aisles and about 12,000 square feet of selling space - typical for new ALDI stores, the media release states - but with a modern look.

ALDI stores offer a variety of fruits and vegetables, USDA Choice meats and various organic, gluten-free and environmentally friendly food and household products.

Van Buren’s store will be open daily from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. All ALDI stores nationwide accept Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express.