The story of the Mariani family is very similar to others already told, but is yet again witness to the way things were in our area 60/70 years ago, when the mass emigration phenomenon was still in course. And as always….they came back home.
Isabella was a young girl when she left for England in the 60’s as a student, in order to learn English, and her fiancé Giorgio Mariani was already over there, working in a restaurant. In December ’66, they married, and went both to work in another prestigious restaurant belonging to a Piacenza-born man (a city not far from us), situated in the central London bank district. Later on, Giorgio and Isabella took over the management of the restaurant themselves, thanks to the experience they had matured up until that point, and continued to successfully run the establishment for 10 years.
In the meantime, their two sons came along and completed the family; Paul was born in 1973, and three years later, in 1976, Marco also made his entrance into the world. But Isabella began to feel restless – she greatly missed Bedonia, where she was born and raised, and aired with the family the idea of returning to their hometown for good. Unfortunately Giorgio did not share her nostalgic feelings. On the contrary, he thought that abandoning a successful business in that moment was a very bad idea indeed. However, his words fell upon homesick ears, and in the end he complied to his wife’s wishes.
Paul had already completed part of his schooling, whilst Marco was only 5 when the Mariani family came back to Italy. Their first project, from ’82 to ’93, was a small grocery shop on the main street of Bedonia, the likes of which hardly exist any more, following the advent of supermarkets everywhere. A counter took up the whole breadth of the premises, and most of the goods were stacked behind it. Isabella and Giorgio were always on hand with a smile and a chat whilst serving their customers, who flocked immediately to patronize their “long-lost” friends/relations (everybody is related to almost everyone in towns like ours!) There was certainly an abundance of clients back then, when folk did their daily shopping in town, and had a good gossip while they were at it! Ahh….things have changed….
In 1996, a new, more ambitious project began, when they transformed that which had previously been a bicycle and general hardware store, into the first mini-supermarket of the area. The town was all a-buzz over this novelty, and there again, the Mariani family had no trouble in getting back into the flow of things. During these years, elder son Paul had already taken a different course of work, whilst Marco in the meantime, had finished his studies, had completed military service, and had made the decision to follow in his parents’ footsteps – but in a yet more ambitious manner!
Being a young man in modern times, he realized that you either keep up with the Jones’, or you just pack up and go home. At this point, the shopping revolution was already taking place, many people were going to the large supermarkets or discount stores in Parma to do their bulk shopping and save money. Not to be blamed of course, but something had to be done…. and so it was that the newest and current project became reality; the old bus deposit of Bedonia was taken over by the Mariani family, and completely transformed into an ample, modern supermarket…..far larger than the previous one.
In this chain of changing locations, an important factor contributed to success – Isabella’s expertise in the kitchen! She is a passionate cook, and everything she turns out is delicious. But even more important is that she is a keeper of all the traditional recipes of Bedonia’s typical dishes, and produces them in industrial quantities for her customers. This is the X factor for the supermarket, so much so, that Marco, who is now in charge of administration, has created a special brand name for Isabella’s delicacies; BELLA TRADIZIONE. Bella is obviously a spin off of her name, and tradition is what she produces, along with her helpers. The list of foods is endless, from savoury cakes to filled pasta, from desserts to roast beef….you name it – she cooks it!
Marco, now 44, has been married to Caterina for 19 years, and they have three children – two girls and a boy. He admits that it’s hard work, a job which absorbs him for 363 days of the year, but all in all, he is satisfied with all that they have accomplished. The supermarket has been associated with three different brand names since its debut, because things do not always go as they should, and Marco is very rigorous in his marketing analysis, not all brands keep up the quality standards and service he demands. They are currently with a French name, which is apparently the second biggest supermarket company in the world.
Since there is a constant increase in competition , the family is focusing on Isabella’s fresh gastronomic produce as a means to differentiate themselves from all the others. Only high quality, organic ingredients are used, very much appreciated and regularly purchased by clients/tourists who come from afar. Marco is intending to export the brand name “BELLA TRADIZIONE” out of the area, in the hope of promoting the typical cuisine of Bedonia.
This supermarket really is run by family, although not all the employees are actually “family” members! Marco and his parents are always there, and Caterina gives her daily contribution at the cash desk. But there are another five people who have been there so long, they are practically all unrelated relations! And for customers, entering the shop is like coming home…..the same home Isabella craved for years, and came back to.