Bob Mariano worked his way up from the bottom of the retail industry to become the chairman of first one supermarket chain and then another. All along the way, he says he has also worked to better the world. Now the fruits of that labor are about to sprout up all over the Chicago area.
The giant new Mariano's Fresh Market Store, marianosfreshmarket.com is located in Arlington Heights. Some industry experts have called the 68,000 square foot facility 'the supermarket of the future." For starters, it's made entirely of certified "renewable forest" lumber.
For years Bob Mariano ran the hugely-successful Dominick's chain in Chicago. Then he headed to Milwaukee to lead the Roundy's Supermarket group. Now he's bringing his passion for environmentalism back home. He says that was actually jump-started in those early Dominick's years.
"When I went to work for Dominick's, Mr. D. would always bail cardboard. From the earliest time we were recycling cardboard," said Mariano.
With this prototype Chicagoland market, Mariano is taking those earth-friendly ideals to a whole other level, as he showed me on a recent tour. These over-sized windows, for example, are made of so-called smart glass.
"The glass doesn't let heat in but lets the light in," said Mariano.
There are computer-controlled lights throughout the building.
"If there's nobody in here the lights will go down," said Mariano.
It's all designed to help the environment -- from the locally-sourced produce to the recycled food containers. In fact, everything from the ceiling to the floors was constructed with the planet in mind.
Mariano says they will monitor and direct energy usage from corporate headquarters, looking for ways to best utilize the power supply-- for this store and the others coming soon to Chicago area. He says the goal is simple:
"If we can keep our operating costs down… we can keep the prices much more competitive," said Mariano. A couple of years ago, Mariano was presented with the Cardinal Bernardin Award for his leadership in Chicago's Italian-American community. In the next few years he plans to open at least a dozen Mariano's Fresh Markets in this area, including upcoming stores in the new Lakeshore East community, also around North and Clybourne, in Vernon Hills and in the Bronzeville neighborhood-- which had been considered a 'food desert."