Kroger expects to keep Mariano's the same after $800 million purchase
Mariano's grocery stores will remain the same despite the sale of the rapidly growing chain to Kroger Co., both companies vowed Wednesday.
The Mariano's name will remain and no layoffs are planned, the companies said. Kroger wants to expand the number of stores and keep Chairman and CEO Robert A. Mariano of Inverness at the helm, said James J. Hyland, a spokesman for Milwaukee-based Roundy's, parent of Mariano's.
At 65, Mariano has no plans to retire soonBy Anna Marie Kukec
Daily Herald Business Writer
At 65, Robert A. "Bob" Mariano has no plans to retire, even after Roundy's, the parent of his namesake grocery stores, was snapped up by Cleveland-based Kroger Co. for $800 million.
In fact, the Inverness resident said Wednesday he and his staff will continue to lead the chain, help it expand further and review all the products and features Kroger offers.
"There's no end date to my employment, and I intend to remain on," Mariano said during a phone interview. "We also intend to keep the stores the same."
He added that there is a learning curve. "We have further discussions ahead," Mariano said. "There's a lot to learn and a lot of conversations ahead."
Many of those conversations, he said, will involve Kroger's buying power and what individual products will remain and which will go. He couldn't provide any insight about such decisions on products, because talks between the two companies haven't reached that level of detail yet.
But customers can expect the same service and features, including the sushi bars, juice bars, gelato and BBQ spots inside many of the stores.
"The end game is not that we're looking just at a list of products and saying what stays and what goes," he said. "But, rather, what is the customer looking for?"
It depends on what the customer will accept, he said.
"We must always evaluate what we do in this business," he said. "We were evaluating many things even before the Kroger deal came up."
He will continue his tradition of travel to Italy with his wife, Nina, to pick up new ideas for the stores. Such annual trips have brought back new products and new ways to display them in local stores that have a European feel. The couple will leave for Milan around Thanksgiving and will spend five days in Italy.
"I have no plans to retire. ... and I'm always gathering ideas," Mariano said.
"We intend to keep the stores the same," Mariano said, adding that the sale will give the company a better, more competitive edge.
The Mariano's chain has expanded in the past several years amid other grocery shakeups in the Chicago area. Its 34 stores are known for cafes, free grilling of food purchased there, coffee bars and a wide selection of prepared takeout meals.
"This is a great win for our customers, communities, employees and our shareholders, and I personally look forward to continue to exceed customer and employee expectations," Mariano said. "Kroger's scale, knowledge and experience allow us to accelerate the strategic initiatives we have invested in and makes us a more formidable competitor in the marketplace."
Cincinnati-based Kroger said it will buy Roundy's for about $800 million, which includes debt. Kroger then will refinance $646 million in debt. The acquisition is expected to close by late December, the companies said.
The deal will allow Kroger to expand in Wisconsin and the Chicago area. The Roundy's headquarters is expected to remain in Milwaukee, the companies said.
"Customers should expect to see little change," Kroger spokesman Keith G. Dailey confirmed. "We intend to bring the best of both Kroger and Roundy's together and invest in the four keys of our 'Customer 1st' strategy -- our people, products, prices and shopping experience."
Dailey said any changes would likely be "backroom process improvements."
"Roundy's will benefit from Kroger's size, and Kroger will benefit from the additional purchasing power that Roundy's base of stores provides," Dailey said.
Kroger operates more than 2,600 stores in 34 states. It owns several supermarket chains, including City Market, Ralph's and Harris Teeter.
Kroger operates 14 discount stores called Food 4 Less in Chicago and the suburbs.
Local Mariano's stores are in Arlington Heights, Aurora, Buffalo Grove, Elmhurst, Evergreen Park, Frankfort, Glenview, Northbrook, Gurnee, Harwood Heights, Hoffman Estates, Lake Zurich, Northfield, Oak Lawn, Shorewood, Skokie, Vernon Hills, Westchester, Western Springs and Wheaton. Nearly a dozen more are in Chicago, including some that recently opened.
Roundy's has struggled against longtime staples Jewel Osco, Aldi, Shop & Save, Pete's and others. Roundy's posted a $309.9 million loss last year, according to company earnings reports.
Mariano's opened the first suburban store in 2010 in Arlington Heights, where the founder grew up. He also acquired about a dozen former Dominick's sites after its parent company, Safeway, left the Chicago market.
Mariano won consumer's hearts with European floral sections, gluten-free items, pressed juices, sushi bars and other features.
Now, Kroger's is expected to grow the Mariano's banner, Hyland said.
"Our two cultures share similar values and we are truly excited about the opportunities this partnership will create," Hyland said. "We know how much Mariano's customers love their stores and you can continue to rely on your friendly and knowledgeable Mariano's team members to serve your everyday shopping needs."