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What is happening at Marianos?

Posted: August 3rd, 2019, 1:05 am
by storewanderer
https://www.chicagobusiness.com/consume ... g-marianos

So, exactly what is happening? What changes are being made to the fresh departments the past 10 months since the old management left?

Re: What is happening at Marianos?

Posted: August 3rd, 2019, 7:48 pm
by rwsandiego
Without the in-store dining, which they apparently are curtailing, Mariano's is simply a collection of poorly-located Jewel stores minus the 87 year tradition of delivering superior quality and service.

Idiots.

Re: What is happening at Marianos?

Posted: August 3rd, 2019, 9:41 pm
by storewanderer
I spent a lot of time reading reviews of Mariano's Stores on Google and Yelp subsequent to reading that article.

I see more negative reviews in the past year than were previously posted, but I am still seeing a whole lot of positive reviews posted too. The reviews on a whole are much more positive than those for Jewel. Looking at store photos the stores still look good (though the unremodeled Dominicks locations probably need some real work so they don't look like a Lifestyle store anymore).

Hard to say what is going on but Kroger's tract record on prepared foods is terrible. Kroger's ready to eat food is universally awful (except that Chester chicken at King Soopers and the Dillons hot Chinese Food is also reasonably edible). They bought Mariano's, I hoped, to get those ready to eat food programs and take them to other markets as well. Yes it would not work in every market but there are a lot of markets where it would work... Kroger even installed fast food stations here at Smiths (BBQ, Mexican, and some Chicken concept that tries to rival KFC and fails miserably at it... and I think KFC is pretty awful but this is worse) at Smiths and they are terrible and way overpriced for what they offer.

Re: What is happening at Marianos?

Posted: August 6th, 2019, 7:05 pm
by storewanderer

Re: What is happening at Marianos?

Posted: August 6th, 2019, 9:39 pm
by rwsandiego
I thought I posted a reply, but apparently I didn't. Sigh. Here's an updated comment based on the article you posted...

I would not have classified pre-Kroger Mariano's as being the same as Eataly. Not by a long shot. The prepared foods were good (much better than when I visited last year after Kroger acquired Roundy's) but not great. Meat was served lukewarm at lunch in downtown Chicago and items like roasted vegetables were on the bland side, but at least the food was fresh and was not all fried. When i visited last year it was hard to find anything I wanted to eat. Had I not 1) been very hungry and 2) trekked far out to East Randolph Drive just to go to Mariano's I would not have eaten there.

A poster on Reddit mentioned something that no one wants to discuss - Roundy's was losing money to begin with and debt was taken on to fund the rapid expansion of Mariano's, which apparently never turned a profit. Start-ups often lose money for five or more years, but a money-losing company like Roundy's could not afford to fund a money-losing startup. To me, Roundy's had three options: 1) Chapter 11, 2) Acquisition by a non-US retailer who wanted to gain a foothold or expand in the US, or 3) Acquisition by a major US supermarket chain. They chose Option 3.

That being said, Kroger does not have to get rid of all the prepared foods, extensive bakery (it was really wonderful), and imported specialty cheeses to right the ship at Mariano's. They probably should close/sell a few stores or, at the very least, re-brand the acquired Dominick's stores to something else, as they appear not to have been converted to full-fledged Mariano's stores. Then, perhaps they could make some small changes, like consolidate the juice and coffee shops into one and/or put the barbeque meats behind the deli to save on labor cost.

It would have been interesting to see what would have happened had Kroger not acquired Roundy's before the novelty of Mariano's wore off. It is hard to maintain momentum year over year without making changes to remain fresh and relevant.

On a side note, the Reddit post noted above commented that Bob Mariano did the same thing at Dominick's and implied that they were losing money as a result. Dominick's was profitable when Safeway bought it. The Fresh Store concept incorporated some of the elements of Mariano's (mainly the "restaurant-quality" prepared foods , which were very good) but they did not incorporate them into all of their stores. Ironically, one of the stores Mariano's acquired but did not remodel into a full-fledged Mariano's was a purpose-built Dominick's Fresh Store in Park Ridge complete with multiple food stations, amazing bakery, extensive produce, and large meat/fish department. Given the proximity to several office complexes and the neighborhood demographics they should have renovated the store, but they didn't. When it was a Dominick's I ate there several times a week, as my office was across the freeway. It was always packed at lunchtime.

Re: What is happening at Marianos?

Posted: August 8th, 2019, 7:17 am
by pseudo3d
rwsandiego wrote:
August 6th, 2019, 9:39 pm
On a side note, the Reddit post noted above commented that Bob Mariano did the same thing at Dominick's and implied that they were losing money as a result. Dominick's was profitable when Safeway bought it. The Fresh Store concept incorporated some of the elements of Mariano's (mainly the "restaurant-quality" prepared foods , which were very good) but they did not incorporate them into all of their stores. Ironically, one of the stores Mariano's acquired but did not remodel into a full-fledged Mariano's was a purpose-built Dominick's Fresh Store in Park Ridge complete with multiple food stations, amazing bakery, extensive produce, and large meat/fish department. Given the proximity to several office complexes and the neighborhood demographics they should have renovated the store, but they didn't. When it was a Dominick's I ate there several times a week, as my office was across the freeway. It was always packed at lunchtime.
A big problem with the pre-Safeway Dominick's that they were also trying to convert Omni Superstore into Dominick's, which largely didn't work because the Omni Superstores were in the wrong neighborhoods and wrong clientele, and often too large for Dominick's anyway. As a result, most of the former Omni stores closed within a few years of becoming Dominick's.
A poster on Reddit mentioned something that no one wants to discuss - Roundy's was losing money to begin with and debt was taken on to fund the rapid expansion of Mariano's, which apparently never turned a profit. Start-ups often lose money for five or more years, but a money-losing company like Roundy's could not afford to fund a money-losing startup. To me, Roundy's had three options: 1) Chapter 11, 2) Acquisition by a non-US retailer who wanted to gain a foothold or expand in the US, or 3) Acquisition by a major US supermarket chain. They chose Option 3.
The real problem of Mariano's was trying to buy up Dominick's stores in the wake of Safeway's failure of the chain. Who knows, maybe they wanted to buy the whole chain. The problem was at that moment, they wanted Mariano's to be less of a specialty store that could command a low market share but be well-respected, and more of a mainstream competitor to compete with Jewel-Osco and functionally fill the hole that Dominick's had. It was that purchase that compromised the whole operation, and once you go mainstream, there's going to be stores that are significantly worse than others (I mean, look what happened to Macy's).

Re: What is happening at Marianos?

Posted: August 8th, 2019, 7:11 pm
by storewanderer
Keep in mind Mariano's cherry picked the Dominicks stores pretty well. Most of those stores they bought were opened under Bob Mariano at Dominicks. He knew exactly what he was buying. I think they ended up with 5 or so stores they probably shouldn't have ended up with, but most of what they got were cherry picked strategically.

I don't think they had the money to do much remodel work on the stores let alone buy the entire Dominick's chain.

The opportunity with Mariano's would have been to keep the fresh departments the same with top of the line execution and improve center store to be more like a Kroger center store. Mariano's center store was pretty weak on mix, but okay on price. The whole "thing" about Mariano's was it was an upper end store with prices lower than Jewel and that was a big part of its appeal. I have not seen anyone else achieve so fast what was achieved with Mariano's in Chicago to go from zero to having a premium reputation in the market and 30+ stores in a matter of 5 years. Of course it brought Roundys to its knees financially, but the stores are still there and open...

Roundy's was running some pretty rough operations up in WI; large stores but they felt neglected and forgotten. All the action was down at Mariano's. Metro Market in WI was similar to a Mariano's in design and feel but had the same neglected and forgotten feel as the Pick N Saves.

All of Kroger's operations seem to be going seriously downhill this year from what I am seeing. I am not sure the problems at Mariano's are unique to it or just consistent with what is happening elsewhere in Kroger. Staffing is cut (so much for "fast checkout", store standards are falling (no employee uniform clothing anymore just aprons), they seem to be putting out less perishable product (waste reduction effort), yet prices seem to be getting closer and closer to Safeway-Albertsons level for an inferior quality product. Kroger's war with the electronic payments industry with this "cash back fee" in the Midwest and the no Visa thing at Smiths is not doing them any favors either as I know of no competitors to date who have followed them on these initiatives.

It is unfortunate the veteran Mariano's people who were running the chain have moved on. Kroger seems to be losing talent at the division management level as evidenced by recent hires for TX from Safeway NorCal and now a hire for LA from Wal Mart. Nothing against these hires (but NorCal Safeway sure seems to be run better now under the Albertsons person... they seem to have added more labor hours, hard to tell who made that happen) but in the past Kroger Division Presidents moved up the ranks within their divisions and later within Kroger and I think it really helped the divisions remain some degree of local tailoring.

Re: What is happening at Marianos?

Posted: August 9th, 2019, 12:20 am
by rwsandiego
pseudo3d wrote:
August 8th, 2019, 7:17 am
…A big problem with the pre-Safeway Dominick's that they were also trying to convert Omni Superstore into Dominick's, which largely didn't work because the Omni Superstores were in the wrong neighborhoods and wrong clientele, and often too large for Dominick's anyway. As a result, most of the former Omni stores closed within a few years of becoming Dominick's.
From what I can tell, only one former Omni remained a Dominick’s to the end. It is the Clybourn and Wrightwood store. When it opened, the neighborhood was iffy, so an Omni was a good fit. Thanks to gentrification, the neighborhood became a Dominick’s neighborhood. Today, it is a Jewel-Osco.
storewanderer wrote:
August 8th, 2019, 7:11 pm
Keep in mind Mariano's cherry picked the Dominicks stores pretty well.
For a chain trying
pseudo3d wrote:
August 8th, 2019, 7:17 am
…to be less of a specialty store that could command a low market share but be well-respected, and more of a mainstream competitor to compete with Jewel-Osco and functionally fill the hole that Dominick's had….
he did an excellent job of picking stores. However, if he was trying to maintain
pseudo3d wrote:
August 8th, 2019, 7:17 am
…a specialty store that could command a low market share but be well-respected….
he did a terrible job.
storewanderer wrote:
August 8th, 2019, 7:11 pm
…I have not seen anyone else achieve so fast what was achieved with Mariano's in Chicago to go from zero to having a premium reputation in the market and 30+ stores in a matter of 5 years. ….
They built the reputation off hype and being a specialty store with a few locations. As they grew bigger the luster started to wear off. Even before the Dominick’s locations were acquired customers complained that the newer Mariano’s did not have the same merchandise and prepared foods as the earlier ones. That’s because Harwood Heights, for example, does not have the same demographics as Arlington Heights. However, Harwood Heights wanted the same experience as Arlington Heights and they didn’t get it.
storewanderer wrote:
August 8th, 2019, 7:11 pm
…Most of those stores they bought were opened under Bob Mariano at Dominicks. …
If you count all 35 years he worked at Dominick’s, that’s true. However, only three of the stores were built as Bob Mariano-designed Fresh Stores pre-Safeway
  • Park Ridge: 1900 S. Cumberland Ave (Former Kroger)
  • Gurnee: 6655 Grand Ave.
  • Aurora: 3025 E. New York St
3145 S. Ashland Ave in Chicago is an older store that looks to have been converted to a Bob-Mariano era Fresh Store

Two were Safeway builds:
  • Chicago: 5201 N. Sheridan Road – Safeway re-build of a 1980’s Dominick’s
  • Chicago: 2021 W. Chicago Ave. – Not sure whether Safeway re-built the former National-turned A&P – turned Edmar (independent) or remodeled the existing building. My guess is they re-built
950 Brook Forest Ave. in Shorewood looks like the twin of Howard and Clark, which was started by Dominick’s under Mariano and finished by Safeway with more of a Safeway layout than a Fresh Store layout.

Three were older Dominick’s (not Bob Mariano-designed Fresh Stores)
  • Western Springs: No. 14 Garden Market St. – Replacement for a Kroger-acquired Dominicks – looks like pre-Bob re-build
  • Northfield: 1822 Willow Road
  • Buffalo Grove: 450 Half Day Road
I can’t tell what 3020 S. Wolf Road was because it has been extensively remodeled and expanded into a full Mariano’s.
storewanderer wrote:
August 8th, 2019, 7:11 pm
…He knew exactly what he was buying. I think they ended up with 5 or so stores they probably shouldn't have ended up with, but most of what they got were cherry picked strategically. …
He should have known what he was buying, but I don’t think he picked strategically if he wanted to maintain the Mariano’s image. Had he wanted to do that he would have bought Wilmette and either Howard and Clark or Ridge and Damen for their proximity to Evanston; Oak Park for its location and proximity to River Forest, Forest Park, Elmwood Park, and Mayfair; and 3145 S Ashland as it is an up and coming area. The rest are just not good fits.

Re: What is happening at Marianos?

Posted: August 9th, 2019, 9:57 pm
by storewanderer
I also wonder if their financial situation caused them to not be able to get all of the stores they wanted...

So it will be interesting to see what happens here. I almost wonder if it may make sense to convert some of the locations (especially on the fringe of the metro area) to the Kroger banner and run them as mainstream stores.

They could theoretically support a few locations on edges (like they do with Bourbonnais) of the metro area without doing market-wide advertising, etc.

When was the last Mariano's opened? Are any new stores currently in development?

Re: What is happening at Marianos?

Posted: August 10th, 2019, 11:18 am
by rwsandiego
It looks like the last new Mariano's is the one in Chicago's Lakeview neighborhood. It opened in 2016 after being in development for more than five years.

Kroger probably should re-brand some of the Mariano's as Kroger. Given Dominick's bought most of Kroger's operation in the early 1970's it would make for a full circle for some of these stores.

Alternatively, they could argue that Dominick's trademark has been abandoned and re-brand them under that banner.

CORRECTION: The most recent Mariano's opened in Chicago's Bronzeville neighborhood in October 2016, about two months after the Lakeview location opened. The Bronzeville store was also in the works for about five years. It is on the site of the former Ida B Wells housing project.