Writer Steve Conrad makes his directorial debut with a Chicago-set comedy, “The Promotion”

Barring extreme wealth or hermetics, everyone uses the grocery store. It is the great equalizer ? the marketplace where all socioeconomic groups can co-exist side by side ? in pursuit of daily bread.

Inspired by this reality, writer and director Steve Conrad turned it into his feature directorial debut, “The Promotion,” a comedy shot in Chicago.

Conrad was the writer of the enormously successful 2006 “The Pursuit of Happyness,” starring Will Smith, about the story of Chicago brokerage firm executive Christopher Gardner, and “The Weatherman,” with Nicolas Cage that was filmed in Chicago in 2005.

Patrick McDonald interviewed Conrad to glean his take on the movie subject and to offer his lowdown on shooting the movie where he also lives.

“Well, it’s home,” Conrad said. “To me, doing a movie in Chicago means putting Chicago natives in a part of town where they live.”

“Buildings convey stories, settings convey stories and in order to tell the story right I want to pick the right place. This is easier for me here because these are the places where I walk around. I want to do it better.”

“The Promotion” is a story about two assistant grocery-store managers. Doug (played by Seann William Scott) and Richard (John C. Reilly) are vying for a coveted manager post at the new branch of their Chicago-based grocery chain.

“It was based on a real-life event that happened at a grocery,” Conrad recalled, “and it seemed the most logical place to set it.”

Conrad described seeing a store employee at a Chicago chain, armed only with a yellow courtesy vest, break up some unruly loiterers in the parking lot.

“They hurt him so badly just from taunts,” Conrad recalled, “and they absolutely refused to recognize any of his authority. He was completely diminished by it all. He turned around and walked away and I noticed it said on the back of his vest: ?Have a nice day.'”

Conrad continued: “So he’s walking back to work instead of quitting, which is what I might do or someone of lesser mettle might do. I thought it was heroic of him to go back. I’m not making too much of this. There’s so much to be admired in that person’s strength.”