With the announcement earlier this week of Mariano's Fresh Market's intention to acquire 11 of the 72 soon-to-be shuttered Chicago area Dominick's locations, Mariano's is set to become a leading grocer in Chicago.
It should not be a surprise to anyone who has even casually been following grocery retail news over the past few years. From the first store in Arlington Heights in 2010 to the recent acquisition, Mariano's is changing the way Chicagoans shop for food and their success has communities clamoring to attract one within their borders.
Here are three key reasons why:
A trip to Mariano's is not a typical trip to the grocery store. It is a unique experience and people are eating it up - literally. Whether it's the gelato counter, the sushi bar or the salad "island," each time shoppers set foot in Mariano's, it can be a new experience. There is so much to see and do within the store, it's possible to never get around to actually buying groceries. The first trip to Mariano's surprises and delights even the finickiest shopper and that is why the store has taken off. While it is targeted for the middle to upper class, the experience at Mariano's is unique and appealing to anyone.
If the "adventure" of all the prepared foods or cooked-to-order meat counter does not appeal, one can simple push past it to a traditional and reasonably priced grocery store. With a healthy mix of national and house brands, prices at Mariano's are on par with other grocery chains in the Chicago area. In many cases, if shopping only the weekly sale items, it is even slightly cheaper. On appearance, one might count Mariano's Fresh Market as only attracting a high-end clientele, but a stroll through the entire store will quickly change that point of view.
Upon entering a Mariano's Fresh Market there is an immediate sense of community that was intentionally created and is unique to each store. From the Greektown location on Halsted to the far south suburban Frankfort store, it is not uncommon to see people meeting for coffee, lunch or dinner. Take a look in any Facebook feed and its hard not to be connected to someone sharing about their experience at Mariano's. The friendly and well-trained staff seem to genuinely enjoy delivering to the throngs of people flocking to the stores each day. And while the service excellence and store layout are consistent across the chain, there is a sense of local personality to each location.
Mariano's Fresh Market has solidified its position in the competitive Chicago grocery market in a short period of time. Chicago is a not an easy market to crack in any industry and it has a rich local grocery past. But based on its formula to date, it is clear that Mariano's Fresh Market is positioned to transform the way Chicagoans experience grocery shopping for the long-term.
Denise W. Barreto is the managing partner at Relationships Matter Now, LLC, a strategic business and marketing firm outside Chicago that connects relationships to maximize life and business. She started her second term as a village trustee for the village of Lake in the Hills in April 2013.