Mariano’s grocery store chain growing
BY SANDRA GUY Sun-Times Media October 26, 2012 4:30PM
Bob Mariano, CEO of the Mariano's grocery chain, tours the store's 40 S. Halsted Street in Greektown in October 2012. I John H. White~Sun-Times
The man at the top
Bob Mariano, 62
Chairman and CEO of Roundy’s Supermarkets, owner of Mariano’s supermarkets.
Formerly president and CEO of Dominick’s Finer Foods.
History: Mariano grew up on Chicago’s Northwest Side and started his grocery career in June 1968 as a part-time deli clerk at a store in Des Plaines. His father worked as the deli buyer for Dominick’s for 20 years.
Bob Mariano worked his way up to president and CEO of Dominick’s grocery stores — a leadership position he held from 1995 to 1998 — and played a key role in taking Dominick’s public in 1996. He left Dominick’s in November 1998 after Safeway bought the chain.
Mariano is a graduate of Loyola Academy and the University of Illinois at Chicago. He earned his MBA at the University of Chicago.
Strategy: The Mariano’s stores aim to appeal to “foodies” with organic produce, meat cutters, attentive clerks and full-fledged delis and bakeries, and to attract bargain hunters with low-priced boxed goods and store brands.
Updated: November 29, 2012 6:38AM
Shoppers at the Mariano’s grocery store opening Tuesday in Chicago’s Greektown community will get to design their own craft-beer six-pack, slurp down oysters at an oyster bar and take cooking lessons from visiting chefs in the Milwaukee company’s most creative efforts yet to serve the Chicago market.
“We continue to refine the concept because customers talk to us about what they want,” said Bob Mariano, owner of parent company Roundy’s Supermarkets, based in Milwaukee.
Mariano, a Chicago native who spent 27 years working his way to the top job at Dominick’s, said in February 2008 that he wanted to build as many as 25 full-service grocery stores in the Chicago area within the next several years.
The Greektown store is the eighth, and five more are in the works.
This week, he said Mariano’s could have 30 stores here in the next five years, including a potential site on Chicago’s South Side.
“Chicago customers are very sharp, and they want value, choices and high-quality food,” Mariano said. “Time is critical to them, so they want an all-in-one shopping experience.”
The Greektown store at 40 S. Halsted St. will employ 450 and attract a diverse array of shoppers in age and demographics, making it a perfect place to try new ideas, he said. The store anchors the new Gateway retail mall and is across the street from a Dominick’s.
Among the 71,132-square-foot Mariano’s store features are:
♦ A walk-in beer cooler, stocked primarily with craft beers, where shoppers can make their own six-pack.
♦ The Vero cafe with gelato, coffee and wine bar, lounge seating and a fireplace.
♦ Classroom kitchen that will offer special events and cooking classes by chefs.
♦ A wine nook where people can enjoy a glass of wine.
♦ A large floral department and European-style produce displays.
♦ An energy-efficient water and electric system.
♦ 150 parking spots.
Jon Hauptman, partner with Willard Bishop retail-food consultancy in Barrington, said Mariano’s is filling an unmet need for a neighborhood store with a high-quality deli and bakery; a greater variety of unique items, including ethnic foods; a customized business in making birthday and special-occasion cakes; and an expansive offering of salads and prepared foods.
“They provide an appealing shopping experience for perishables, and their prices in their store brands are lower than many in the Chicago market,” Hauptman said.
That gives shoppers the choice of picking low-price staples alongside higher-end offerings, he said.
The extra store touches show how competitive the Chicago supermarket arena has become now that Wal-Mart, Costco, Target, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Save-A-Lot and others are operating here, Hauptman said.
“The competition has raised the bar. Grocery stores now have to figure out where they stand apart,” he said.