RIVER NORTH — Bob Mariano said Monday he'd be touring the South Shore area in the coming weeks to explore whether it "makes any sense" to place a new Mariano's outlet there.
Mariano, chief executive officer of the Roundy's supermarket chain and head of the Mariano's stores in the Chicago area, made the comment after addressing the City Club of Chicago in a lunch speech Monday.
Last month, Mariano trumpeted plans to build a new store in Bronzeville, but was immediately attacked by Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th), who responded, "How is it that Mariano’s can pledge to the mayor to work to address so-called food deserts, but won’t give my constituents the time of day?"
Mariano, who ran Dominick's before it was bought by Safeway, has converted many of the closed Dominick's to Mariano's outlets, but not the one shuttered in South Shore.
"We're scheduling a meeting with Ald. Hairston to drive her ward in the near future, so that's being worked on right now," Mariano said. "We'll listen to what she's got and we'll see if it makes any sense.
"We've got to go into the neighborhood, drive the neighborhood together and see her vision and her ideas and see if they fit with ours," he added.
Hairston's office confirmed a tour of the 5th Ward is being planned with a date to be determined.
Mariano, however, would not comment on news reports that have Mariano's showing an interest in the former U.S. Steel factory on the South Side, saying only, "We'll have something to say about that in the future."
Mariano stressed the notion of "community" in his remarks to the City Club.
"For us, it's about one thing — community," he said. "We stress in each one of our stores, we are a community."
He said the chain emphasizes "the groundedness into the neighborhood, into the community," adding, "Your store is your community."
Mariano called on store employees to "acknowledge" customers and welcome them to that community, but also for management to acknowledge workers and for workers to "get good at what you're doing" and be "proficient."
"Pride in what they do," he added, "is key."
Mariano struck a humble attitude, saying, "I probably would prefer to stay off the grid," but spoke with pride of the 24 Mariano's opened in the Chicago area in just the last four years and the five more coming this year and five more in 2015.
He estimated the 29 stores to be open by the end of the year had an economic impact on the city of between $200 million and $300 million, with annual sales of $1.5 billion. He added they employed 10,200 people, and would top 11,000 by the end of the year.
Mariano explained his addition of piano bars to new Mariano's outlets by saying, "I happen to love music."
"Frankly, I think it makes you feel better, and that's why we do it."
He also admitted he stole the idea from the Nordstrom's department stores.
Mariano allowed he had "other markets on the horizon," but was cagey about where the Chicago-based chain might expand.
"Where?" Mariano added. "We haven't said."
For more neighborhood news, listen to DNAinfo Radio here: