From a quick glance at the comments on Mariano's Facebook page just in the past week, it's clear this grocer must be doing something right. Nearly 15,000 people follow Mariano's on Facebook, just eating up the many posts about new store openings, food and wine specialties, holiday delicacies and in-store classes and events.
"I love your store!!! Have you looked at opening in Lindenhurst??? Would love, love it and I wouldn't have to drive to Vernon Hills," one commenter said on Monday.
"Just discovered Mariano's—BEST STORE EVER," another said Sunday.
Basically, "we need a Mariano's in _______, PLEASE," is the theme.
Most Elmhurst residents also feel they have struck gold, with a store scheduled to open here this spring. Even when Patch published early rumors of the store's opening a year and a half ago, word spread quickly through town.
Now that it's getting closer to reality, one Facebook commenter this week wrote: "We are all dying for it to open! It will be so awesome to have a Mariano's close to home!! It's my favorite market by far."
What is this Magic?
What is it that makes residents feel they have won the lottery when a Mariano's comes to town?
It seems to all start with founder and Chicago native Bob Mariano. The city of Elmhurst courted him for more than two years in order to bring this store to town, according to former Mayor Pete DiCianni.
A lengthy article in the Chicago Tribune Monday paints a picture of a humble man who rose up through the ranks in the grocery industry by working in every area of Dominick's. In fact, Dominick's founder, Dominick DeMatteo, was his mentor.
Dominick's current corporate structure—it's now owned by Safeway—is a far cry from its family-run beginnings, where Mariano worked every job from dairy to deli, and ultimately president and CEO. He carries a million little lessons—and some big ones—from decades in the grocery industry into every Mariano's he opens.
He wants his stores to be "the Nordstrom of the grocery world," he told The Tribune.
Mariano's childhood, his family, his professional ascent and his business philosophy all ultimately are reflected in the character of his stores. In the article, Mariano is quick with a colorful anecdote and lessons of early failures, management style and the importance of giving back.
How Much Longer?
An exact opening date for the Elmhurst store is not known, but Acting Mayor Scott Levin, in his State of the City address last month hinted at April or May.
The building at York and Industrial Drive in Elmhurst, where Mariano's broke ground on Oct. 12 last year, is starting to take shape. Eager residents who have been traveling all the way to Arlington Heights to get their Mariano's fix, can now almost imagine pushing their carts through aisles of bakery, meat, produce, frozen, specialty and prepared items, or sitting down in the café, or bellying up to the gelato bar.
The store, one of 20 the company is opening in the Chicago area this year, is expected to provide 450 local jobs.
When Mariano came to Elmhurst to introduce himself last March, he told a crowd of city officials and media representatives, "I've always seen myself simply as a grocer."
But he made a promise.
"I assure you that the store we put here will absolutely wow you," he said.
It won't be long now.