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The Chicago Sun Times has a story about the 11th Mariano's store in the Chicago area, in the city's South Loop just a quarter mile from the northern border of Chinatown, which offers specialty products that the company believes will appeal to ethnic audiences as well as to nearby yuppies.

CEO Bob Mariano says that "the new inventory isn’t just a matter of making a splash, but a product of research. Mariano says he spent five years planning the South Loop location, visiting nearby restaurants, butcher shops and specialty stores to assess demand for inventory."

The story goes on to say that "Mariano and his upmarket competitors like Whole Foods have transformed the local grocery market by assessing the new intersection between quality and price. According to a recent report by Mid-America Real Estate, square footage for gourmet stores in the Chicago area increased by 60 percent in the past two years. Meanwhile, the square footage for traditional grocers dropped by more than 5 percent in the same time period ... Mariano remains careful to maintain the perception that his stores are not for gourmands alone."
KC's View:
Love the Mariano's stores. But I continue to find it hard to believe that the model is economically sustainable, mostly because the prices seem so low that there's no way that the company won't have to raise them at some point. But they're great stores, making a dent.