Roundy’s Eyes More Chicago-area Stores

Roundy’s Supermarkets, Inc.’s plans up to 18 more stores over the next five years in the Chicago area after last week’s launch of Mariano’s Fresh Market in the Windy City suburb of Arlington Heights.

“I think it’s a point of pride for all of us,” Robert Mariano, Roundy’s chairman and store namesake, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “It highlights our view of what retailing is all about.”

Industry observers say the entry into Chicago of the Milwaukee-based chain, first announced three years ago, is a homecoming of sorts for Mariano, the former CEO of the Chicago-based Dominick’s supermarket chain, which he left when it was sold to Safeway in 1998. As CEO of Roundy’s, Mariano has recruited people from other chains, including many from Dominick’s.

Roundy’s operates 155 stores, under the Pick ‘n Save, Copp’s and Metro Market banners in Wisconsin, and Rainbow in the Minneapolis area. Since 2002, Roundy’s has been owned by Willis Stein & Partners, a private equity firm in Chicago that intended to sell the company after five years, but the economic downturn stalled that plan.

The 68,000-square-foot store in Arlington Heights resembles the Metro Market in Brookfield, with a few new features like a sushi bar -- a first for the company -- and a gelato bar, a feature that Roundy’s debuted this spring at the downtown Milwaukee Metro Market, the Journal Sentinel reported.

Customers can buy made-to-order sandwiches and other prepared foods to eat on-site. The store also has a kiosk in the pharmacy area that allows shoppers to get advice, along with menus that are suitable for their health conditions. The kiosk will print out recipes and shopping lists for ingredients. Similar kiosks could soon be added in Wisconsin stores, said Ghassan Hourani, VP of pharmacy for Roundy’s.

Jewel-Osco, owned by Minneapolis-based Supervalu, Inc., is the No. 1 chain in the Chicago area with 171 stores, followed by Dominick’s, Costco and Walmart.

The next Mariano’s store, scheduled to open next year in downtown Chicago, will be a two-story market on Randolph Street east of Michigan Avenue, with further locations planned for the Bronzeville neighborhood and the northwest suburb of Vernon Hills.

Mariano wouldn’t comment directly on the rumor of Roundy’s acquiring the Dominick’s chain. “We’d look at anything of any substance in the Chicago area,” he told the Journal Sentinel. “The ability to grow in Illinois through acquisition is something we’d be interested in.”

Roundy’s would need to make an acquisition to grow large enough to make a dent in market share in Chicago, Neil Stern, a partner at McMillan/Doolittle, a Chicago retail consulting firm, told the Journal Sentinel.

Advertising for Mariano’s Fresh Market reportedly is narrowly targeted to the Arlington Heights area, with “Chairman Bob”-themed ads, familiar to Wisconsin viewers, running on local cable.

This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds