Owners of a St. Louis-based hearing aid distributor are bringing their business across Interstate 70, opening 11 new stores in and around the Kansas City area this weekend.

Brian Marino, vice president at Southwestern Hearing Centers, said that the new stores are staffed by 15 employees but that the company will hire more people as the dust settles from the openings.Southwestern conducts hearing-loss evaluations, provides recommendations for hearing devices and handles hearing aid repairs.

The 11 locations are just the start for the medical-focused retail distributor. Marino said the plan is for four more stores before the end of 2015, with a total of 25 employees in the area.

Southwestern is a family-owned business. And the Marino family is not entering the Kansas City market alone — it’s picked up a Royal escort.

George Brett, the Kansas City Royals Hall of Fame member, is lined up to be one of Southwestern’s first customers in the Marinos’ new market. In addition to plans for using their services, Brett also will be the marketing face for Southwestern, Marino said, from commercials to print ads.

How did the KC newcomer land a Royal? Marino said a good family friend, Whitey Herzog, introduced them.

The new locations on the Missouri side will be in Independence, Lee’s Summit, North Kansas City, Kansas City, Raymore and Clinton. On the Kansas side: Lawrence, Olathe, Prairie Village, Shawnee and Overland Park.

Marino joined the family business two years ago and helped it expand from 24 locations to 65 between Kansas City, St. Louis and Chicago. His father, Michael, is the company’s president.

“He’s the gas, and I am the steering wheel,” Marino joked about his father, who took the company from one location to 24 during the 40 years he has owned and operated it.