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Mariano mum on U.S. Steel site; says customer care is key to success

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Updated: June 23, 2014 5:52PM

Amid reports that he is negotiating to open a “Fresh Market” store on the former U.S. Steel Corp. factory site, grocer Bob Mariano was giving nothing away Monday — confirming only that he is committed to the city.

“It’s a passion of ours to provide healthy and affordable food to every community that we can in the city and the suburbs of Chicago,” Mariano said, speaking at a City Club of Chicago luncheon downtown. “We do it one store at a time.”

Mariano — who grew up in the Jefferson Park neighborhood — has opened 24 stores, with five more planned for the remainder of this year and another five next year. His firm acquired several former Dominick’s stores after that grocer closed its Chicago locations.

Asked about a Crain’s Chicago Business story Monday saying Mariano is negotiating to lease more than 70,000 square feet at the South Side factory site, Mariano said: “We’ll have more to say about that in the near future.”

What’s been the key to Mariano’ success so far — generating an expected $1.5 billion in revenues by the end of 2014?

Mariano told his audience it’s about taking care of people — employees and customers.

“If you’re a cashier and you’re nice to your customer but there are five people in line, (the customer) is going to get aggravated. They don’t want to wait. .... So you have to be good at what you do,” Mariano said.

And what about the live music in his stores?

Mariano said he grew up with a “grand appreciation” for classical music.

Music makes people feel good, he said — but, he added, putting pianos in his stores was not his idea.

“I stole that from Nordstrom,” he joked.


Twitter: @slesposito

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