Mariano's set to open in Arlington Heights
If you know the difference between Spanish and Mexican chorizo - and have difficulty locating the Spanish version for your recipes - that's one reason to check out Mariano's Fresh Market, which opens Tuesday near downtown Arlington Heights.
Bob Mariano, chairman and CEO of Roundy's Supermarkets Inc., pointed out that and a variety of other highlights in a tour of the new 68,000-square-foot store on Northwest Highway near Kensington Road.
What he really wants is to provide the specialty products, like the elusive chorizo, as well as typical grocery store purchases.
Not far inside the front door is the coffee, gelato and fried dough stand, where Mariano swears your taste buds will think you're in Rome. The next stop could be the brick oven for thin-crust or oven-baked pizza. The hot food section culminates in a sushi bar where the chefs have been trained by staff at Tank Sushi, a Chicago restaurant.
"We don't know sushi, so we got some experts to teach us," said Mariano.
And prepared food will be important at Mariano's.
"Customers may be ready some days to prepare everything from scratch," he said. "Other times they want to assemble lunch or get something already done for them.
"That's the lifestyle of our customer base. It could be the same person doing different things different parts of the week."
People who grab lunch or a snack can take advantage of a small eating area or the adjacent outdoor patio.
Besides importing meats and cheeses from around the world, Roundy's has partnered with local providers: Didier Farms of Lincolnshire has its own stand in the produce department and Kaufman's Bagels in Skokie offers their signature rolls.
Mariano gets quite eloquent about the "phenomenal" muffins provided as frozen dough by Wegmans Food Market in Rochester, N.Y., and baked in the Arlington Heights grocery store.
The fish department staff will talk to people on boats and order just-caught fish and seafood for next-day delivery. Customers can have their catch steamed or grilled in the store.
Roundy's is based in Milwaukee, but Wisconsin is just one of 20 states where the store's beer comes from, and brews are imported from 15 countries, too. Customers can walk into the cooler and build their own six packs from a selection of craft beers.
Mariano pops into the area around the pharmacy and says "you can find a lot of cool stuff in here.
"Here's vitamin E oil - I've never heard of it - and tea tree oil. JASON PowerSmile with papaya. Maybe I'll try that."
The Internet, he says, has taught people about more obscure products. He likes giving customers a chance to try them.
But how much does all this cost?
Balancing price, quality and service is "more art than science," said Mariano. "We price it to sell. It does us no good to put fresh product out here and throw it away. Customers will find that the prices will be quite competitive."
Seminars will unravel the mysteries of heathy eating or explain how to handle special dietary requirements.
"We want the grocery store to be more relevant and bring to life that what you're putting in your body is directly related to what you're going to feel and how well you feel about your life," he said.
Other details Mariano points out:
• Organic foods such as cereal or juice are in the same sections as their nonorganic cousins, but the containers are shaped differently so they are easier to find.
• In the international aisles flags of the appropriate countries fly above the shelves.
• Price labels on the bottom shelves are readable by someone standing in the aisle - no crouching necessary.
• Cashiers are set up in the prepared foods area so people grabbing lunch or something for dinner can be in and out quickly.
The store will be open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily and will employ 325 people, all but a very small percentage local hires.
"This is what a food store ought to be," said Mariano. "People don't want to make four trips to four stores to get their food. When I can save you time because I can meet your needs, save you another 25- or 30-minute trip and you don't have to pay a gazillion dollars for it - that's value."