Mariano’s Invites Local, Black Business Owners to Showcase their Products

Mariano’s Invites Local, Minority and Women-Owned Business Owners to Showcase their Products for Potential Inclusion in their Stores

President and CEO, Bob Mariano, and his merchandising team personally met with all vendors present to sample their products and learn more about their businesses

(CHICAGO – AUGUST 9, 2016)  Three years after her product, Bee Love Honey and Skin Care, has been gracing the shelves at Mariano’s 37 grocery stores throughout the Chicagoland area, Brenda Palms-Barber, Executive Director and CEO of Sweet Beginnings, Inc., remains forever grateful for the opportunity offered her by this dynamic and innovative grocery chain.

“Bob Mariano understands this business like no one else, but he also cares about the people behind the products,” said Ms. Palms-Barber to an eager crowd gathered for Mariano’s 2016 “Meet the Buyer” Expo on Wednesday, August 3, 2016. “Mariano’s leadership is truly committed to growing the communities they serve and partnering with local and small business owners throughout the region.”

Considered the Midwest’s most exciting food destination, Mariano’s is known for its variety of fresh and healthy affordable food as well as its welcoming atmosphere and specialized food stations that include fresh sushi, a wine bar, a dedicated cheese station and other unique offerings.

“I am excited to be here at the De La Salle Institute surrounded by so many innovative small business owners,” said Bob Mariano, who personally met with each of the 26 vendors present and sampled their products. “Mariano’s is an integral part of the communities we serve. We are pleased to be able to provide these budding entrepreneurs an opportunity to showcase their products to our merchandising team for possible placement in our stores.”

Amanda Puck, Director of Strategic Brand Development, echoed Mr. Mariano’s statements, saying that this annual event has allowed vendors from throughout the Chicagoland area, especially those from traditionally underserved areas, to showcase their amazing products, ideas and food items to gain a larger market share and increase profits.

“We especially like to partner with companies that are trying to help the community at large,” said Ms. Puck. “For example, Sweet Beginnings currently employs more than 450 people who have been incarcerated. These are folks who may not have been offered another opportunity.”

Alicia Garcia-Abner, President of Trinal, Inc. the corporate Diversity and Inclusion Consulting firm for Mariano’s, whose firm facilitated the event stated, “In our business, when people think of diversity, they often think of the low-hanging fruit, the easy wins to meet a goal. In this instance, we created an opportunity within an opportunity where minority and women-owned food vendors could provide quality products in a mass-market arena, the grocery business, where the potential for growth can be daunting but exponential. Getting one’s product in the door and on the shelves is not an easy-access process. We are excited for the vendors who were selected to attend today. No one in the grocery industry has been as impactful in ensuring that diverse companies are afforded opportunities like Bob Mariano”

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Among the vendors present at the “Meet the Buyer” expo was Signature Sweets Factory, a dessert and catering company run by 22-year-old Marcus J. Providing delicious samples of his cupcakes, premium desserts and mason jar cake samples, Marcus was thrilled to be at the buyer’s event.

“I like making people happy through food,” says Marcus J. “Having the opportunity to meet with Mariano’s and showcase my life’s work is a dream come true.” With his mom by his side, Marcus’s company continues to flourish; you can see more of his products and services at

When I worked, at my retail job I would bring cupcakes. They didn’t look like anything but they would taste good. Everyone would be like, “ Marcus, they taste great, doesn’t look very good though. You should work on your packaging.” He said. “So I was like, you’re right. If something looks good and tastes good, it’s like it tastes even better. Since I’m really big on taste, I started pushing myself to make things look as good as possible.”

In addition to sweet desserts, the “Meet the Buyer” expo featured vendors specializing in skin care products, ethnic spices, cured meats, zero calorie sugar, gourmet chips and salsa and a variety of other items.

Tytus Cousins, Account Executive of D.A.’S Gourmet Meats, displayed a delicious spread of corn beef and veggie hash, roast beef and turkey hotlinks. Excited to share his dishes with Bob Mariano, he watched nervously as Mariano sampled the hotlinks first. “He said he loved it! So we’ll see,” said Cousins. D.A’S Gourmet Meats has been in business for 20 years and Cousin’s has been with the company for 11 years.  “Come see us at the restaurant in Orland Park, and hopefully in Mariano’s soon!”

Victoria Amory, originally from Spain, traveled all the way from Connecticut to showcase her Victoria Amory flatbread crisps and delectable spreads, such as her lemon herb and roasted garlic mayonnaise. To see more of her products, visit her website

Chicago’s 3rd Ward Alderman Pat Dowell, was also guest speaker at the expo. “It’s great that Mariano’s is affording members of the community the opportunity to showcase and pitch their products to Bob Mariano himself. I think it says so much about what kind of person he [Bob Mariano] is and what helps set Mariano’s stores apart from the rest. With the Mariano’s Bronzeville store opening soon, this gives our local AA vendors a once in a lifetime opportunity to be able to sell their products not only just to their own community, but the chance to be featured in all Mariano’s stores throughout Chicago and beyond,” said Dowell.

Roundy’s will follow up with the vendors in the coming weeks. No word yet on when final selections will be made.


Submitted by Jerry Thomas P.R.


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