Roundy's CEO outlines plans for suburban supermarkets

  • Bob Mariano, chairman and chief executive officer of Roundy's Supermarkets Inc., center, talks with Michael Mallon, left, and Dan Farrell at a Wednesday breakfast sponsored by the Arlington Economic Alliance.

      Bob Mariano, chairman and chief executive officer of Roundy's Supermarkets Inc., center, talks with Michael Mallon, left, and Dan Farrell at a Wednesday breakfast sponsored by the Arlington Economic Alliance. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 5/12/2010 12:16 PM

Even before Roundy's Supermarkets Inc. opens its Arlington Heights store -- its first foray into the Chicago area -- the company is looking for other suburban locations, Bob Mariano, chairman and chief executive officer, said Wednesday.

Vernon Hills, Palatine and perhaps even another location in Arlington Heights might work for the company's new Mariano's Fresh Market concept, Mariano said at a breakfast talk sponsored by the Arlington Economic Alliance. The corporation, which would like to open 12 to 15 stores in the area in the next four or five years, is also building stores in Chicago.

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"We want densely populated areas that tend to be underserved," he said. "Probably not Randall Road where there's every retailer in the world."

In doing research before entering the market, staff was flabbergasted to find 4,100 items sold in the Northwest suburbs that Roundy's doesn't carry, said Mariano.

"We had a lot of work to do. Many of us are in Chicago," said the Inverness resident who was chief executive officer of Dominick's Finer Foods before its sale to Safeway, "but we don't take that for granted. We do our homework to understand what customers want."

The opening date for the Mariano's Fresh Market in Arlington Heights should be announced by the end of May, he said in an interview after his talk.

The Milwaukee-based company will have a benefit for a local organization before the public opening of the store at 800 E. Northwest Highway, the former site of Lattof Chevrolet, said Mariano. While a recipient has not been finalized, Roundy's Foundation concentrates on hunger issues, abused and at-risk families and literacy. The foundation donates $700,000 to $800,000 annually, he said.

Mariano's will be a one-stop store, he said.

Customers can pick a piece of fish - seafood will be flown in fresh daily - or a choice or prime steak cut to order and have it grilled right at the store for eating either inside or on a patio.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

An Italian-themed cafe will have gelato that tastes "like visiting Rome" as well as a wood-burning oven for more than pizza.

Shoppers will find sushi, perhaps 1,000 varieties of fresh fruits and vegetables both conventional and organic, and items from Italian, Polish and Jewish specialty companies.

An on-site nutritionist will provide advice, including recommendations for people with conditions like diabetes or celiac disease.

Other departments include a pharmacy, liquor, catering office and floral shop.

In response to an audience question, Mariano said it would be up to the 150 to 200 employees whether to unionize and that Roundy's 154 stores include ones with and without unions.

Current thinking is the store should be open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Later hours were discussed, but the feeling was nearby residents might object.

Mariano, whose family moved to Arlington Heights in 1968, said he is counting on area residents to do a good job of evaluating the store.

"If it's not there, you've got to ask," he said. "I want to know how well we're doing and be accountable to you."