To call Stone Mountain resident LaDonna Allison a Lidl fan might be a bit of an understatement. By her own admission, in fact, she is a “super fan” of the grocery store chain.

Every time she visits a city where a Lidl store is located, she makes a point to visit the German grocer. Part of the attraction is the fact that Lidl’s store brands don’t use food dyes that Allison is allergic to, and the other are the prices. She said she once got enough food to completely fill a shopping cart for about $30.

So it may not too much of a surprise that she was excited to be one of the first customers to shop at the new Lidl store in Snellville during its grand opening Wednesday.

As she waited in the checkout line, she talked about coming back in the afternoon to do more shopping.

“I love me some Lidl,” Allison said. “I’ve been dying for this store to open because it’s 10 minutes from my house.”

The new Lidl located at 3821 U.S. Highway 78 in unincorporated Snellville opened to a long line of customers waiting to be the first shoppers in the German grocer’s new location. The store was packed with thousands of customers Wednesday morning causing long lines that stretched down aisles as the first shoppers converged on the check out area with full carts.

Lidl — whose name is pronounced “Lee-duhl” — entered the U.S. market in June 2017 and the Snellville store is its 65th U.S. location, the third store in Georgia and the second shop in metro Atlanta.

The store employs about 60 people at the store, which has about 36,000 square feet of space — about 21,000 of which is the actual shopping area, according to Lidl spokeswoman Chandler Ebeier.

“We’re definitely very excited to be in Georgia (and) we will continue to expand here and along the east coast,” she said. “It’s definitely great to open the door and be in the Snellville community.”

The store features fresh produce and baked good, as well as organic foods, at the front. Toward the back, there are dairy products and a wide range of non-food items including kettle balls, gym bags, HDTV antennas, ladies trench coats, work out clothing, pots and plumber pliers.

The first customers braved temperatures in the mid-20s just so they could be the first people in the door. Store officials said the first customer to arrive was Snellville resident John Rudovich, who said he arrived shortly after 3 a.m. to get in line for the 8 a.m. opening.

Rudovich said he decided to check the store out on a recommendation from a friend.

“He’d shopped at one in Europe and said ‘Will you come with me?’, so I said sure,” he said. “I like it. It’s got some good value to it. I wish it had a deli, but you know what, it’s a nice store and I think the area needs something like this.”

Ebeier said she was impressed to see the line of customers who braved the cold temperatures to be at the grand opening.

“It was crazy and for 25-degree weather, that is very impressive and it definitely goes to show how people are excited about Lidl opening in the community,” she said. “Grans openings are one of my favorite things to attend. We just love to open in new communities and introduce our high quality and low prices to brand new customers in the area.”

Snellville resident Arnetia Brewster said she likes to attend grand openings for stores. While the free giveaways are one part of the attraction, it’s also a chance to see what the store is like when it’s brand new, she said.

“This is going to be my first time checking out this store to see what they are because I was told it was kind of like ALDI, but we’ll see,” Brewster said as she stood in line with family a half hour before the store opened.

Store General Manager Kathleen Brinson and Gwinnett County Commissioner Marlene Fosque cut the ribbon to open the store at 8 a.m.

“I’m so glad that you guys could be here today for the Snellville grand opening,” Brinson told customers. “I’m so excited that you all came out. I just want to thank my store team for all of the effort they put in. The store looks amazing. I’m so excited. I cannot wait for you guys to see it.”

Fosque praised the store as she represented her fellow commissioners at the grand opening and welcomed the store into Gwinnett.

“It’s fantastic,” Fosque said. “It’s vibrant and we are vibrantly connected here in Gwinnett County … It’s a pleasure for me to be here on behalf of the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners. We officially welcome you, Lidl, to the Snellville area.”

But for Gwinnett residents, Wednesday was the culmination of months of anticipation. The Snellville store had been in the works since at least 2017 and several customers said they had been watching the store come up out of the ground with anticipation.

Berkeley Lake residents Marisa and Stephen Hegyesi said they had been waiting for a Lidl to be built near their old home outside Houston but they moved to Gwinnett County last year before the store could be built. Upon their arrival in the county, they cast their gaze toward progress on the Snellville location.

“If it’s like the ones in Europe, it should have some good selections of European food,” Marisa Hegyesi said.

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I'm a Crawford Long baby who grew up in Marietta. I eventually wandered away from home and attended the University of Southern Mississippi, in Hattiesburg, Miss., where I first tried my hand at majoring in film for a couple of years. And then political sc