Skokie, IL – The opening of a new large supermarket is always cause for celebration to local shoppers but when Mariano’s, a regional chain with 32 stores, opened its 70,000 square foot store here last week, it instantly changed the landscape for Chicago kosher shoppers. Mariano’s became the third large kosher destination in the city, Jewel-Osco and the independent Hungarian Kosher being the others. There are a smattering of other kosher options such as small grocery stores and even a relatively new Wal-Mart that carries many kosher products but most of Chicago’s estimated 260,000 Jews who keep kosher shop at the three destinations. For Mariano’s this is the first kosher store within a store as company officials estimated that 5,000 square feet is dedicated to kosher including some 15 freezer doors. Don Fitzgerald, Group Vice President and Chief Merchandising and Marketing Officer, credited a strong relationship with the Chicago Rabbinical Council for “getting it right.” He was grateful for the enthusiastic response in the community and promised to carefully listen to the community, a concept that he says works well with all their stores. “Our success has always been to work closely with the communities that we serve,” he added.
Working closely with Rabbi Yaakov M. Eisenbach of the cRc, Mariano’s sought to provide kosher customers with a “great kosher experience” including a Sweet Shoppe, a fish and sushi department “where fish can be grilled on the spot,” a full meat department and fresh bakery. There is also a cheese shop, deli, meat counter and grill, soup bar, and an olive bar. Mr. Fitzgerald encouraged shoppers to “come and dip strawberries and marshmallows in the special chocolate machines,” all under the supervision of the cRc, which has a team of four permanent mashgichim in the super store. For the parent company Roundy, the Mariano’s kosher store within a store is a first. It does have a kosher presence in one of its Pick and Save stores in the Milwaukee area. Located at 3358 W. Touhy Ave. in the northern suburb of Chicago, Mariano’s Skokie brings nearly 400 jobs to the community.
For the nearby Jewel-Osco, which had recently upgraded its large kosher section, this was a time to reward loyal customers with many specials for Lag Bomer celebrations. Its flyers and ads read: “No one brings more Kosher Value and Variety to the Chicagoland area. Don’t miss these incredible values at your Kosher Jewel!”