(To close out the year, we’re counting off five of our most-read stories from 2017. While many of our clicks this year came on stories of tragedy, we’ve left those pieces off this list out of respect for the families. Here’s number two. Read number three here. Check back tomorrow for the final installment.)

Retail was definitely a source of local excitement in 2017, specifically the grocery sector. For those of you who were tired of traditional options ranging from Save-A-Lot (affordable!) to Lowes Foods (expensive!), the arrival of competing grocery chains from the Rhineland (or some other part of Germany, we really don’t know) was welcome.

Boasting lower prices and plenty of “store brands,” Lidl opened its doors on N.C. Highway 87 in June, after spending the first half of the year under construction. The opening was part of a large rollout by the company of its very first North American stores. Aldi, slightly more familiar to Americans and with a similar business model, opened in November.

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Both stores are routinely packed, and the low prices they boasted about at opening have remained largely static. There are some differences – you’ve got to get used to bringing your own reusable bags or paying a little extra for new ones, and at Aldi you need a quarter to get a cart (you get it back when you’re done) – but if our traffic was any indication, the stores’ popularity seems matched by the anticipation locals had upon learning of their arrival.

What else is there to say about new grocery stores? They’re new. They’re cheap. People were excited about them, and they seem to like them. Happy shopping, Lee County.

Read the next installment of this series here.