- Bob Mariano, the veteran Midwestern supermarket industry executive known for establishing the Mariano’s grocery banner now owned by Kroger, is creating a new chain of urban-focused grocery stores in Chicago, according to a report in Crain’s Chicago Business.
- The business, to be called Dom’s Market & Kitchen, will carry specialty items, prepared foods and meal kits and plans to debut its first location in the city’s affluent Lincoln Park neighborhood in March 2021. To build the new grocer, Mariano has partnered with Jay Owen, whose grandfather founded the former Dominick’s supermarket chain, and former Mariano's executive Don Fitzgerald, Crain’s reported. The trio is backed by a $10 million investment from a pair of Chicago venture capital firms.
- Mariano founded his namesake grocery brand in 2010 when he was CEO of Roundy’s and led the sale of Roundy’s to Kroger for $800 million in 2015. He retired as head of the grocery giant’s Roundy’s division in September 2016, then served as a strategic advisor to the company for two years.
Bob Mariano’s decision to develop a new fleet of supermarkets is the latest chapter in his storied career in Chicago’s grocery industry. The project will give him a chance to again shake up the city's grocery market, where he earned a reputation as an innovator.
Dom's Market & Kitchen will also offer in-store dining, allowing shoppers to watch food being prepared and holding events such as wine tastings, Owen said in a statement to Crain's. The move toward in-store experiences has ramped up over the past several years as retailers try to make their locations a destination for guests, from gourmet meal and wine tastings at Jungle Jim's in Ohio to a bar and food trucks on the roof at Whole Foods in Atlanta's flagship store.
After working his way up the ranks of the former Dominick’s chain to become CEO in 1996, Mariano oversaw its IPO that same year and sale to Safeway in 1998. He became chief of Roundy’s, a platform he later used to develop dozens of stores in the Chicago area under the Mariano’s name, in 2002.
Mariano used his namesake grocery operation to establish himself as a leader in the Chicago food retailing business. The stores he led, known for fresh and prepared foods, carried unique items like cold-pressed juices that drew shoppers used to a supermarket landscape dominated by Jewel-Osco and Dominick’s.
The Chicagoland grocery environment has changed in the decade since Mariano’s arrived on the scene, with Dominick’s going out of business and Mariano’s being absorbed into the much larger Kroger corporate empire. In September 2018, a group of senior Mariano’s executives who had continued working for the grocer under the Kroger umbrella left amid a restructuring that saw the merger of the specialty Mariano’s operation with conventional banners Kroger runs under the Roundy's division, like Pick 'n Save, Copps and Metro Market. Mariano’s had operated separately as part of Roundy's since 2016.