What do Stew Leonard’s, Woodstock, the 1969 Miracle Mets, and Sesame Street all have in common? 2019 marks the 50th Anniversary of each! Wow!
We invite you to celebrate Stew Leonard’s golden anniversary as we feature Fresh, Family and FUN in exciting ways throughout the year. We’ll kick off the celebration April 3, 2019 and end in November with another milestone: the 90th birthday of store founder Stew Leonard Sr.!
Visit this page each month as we feature new items, special events, contests, exclusive offers and fun stories featuring the Leonard’s family, spotlights on our Team Members who tireless work behind the scenes, fun facts and more!
Stew's Fall Baking Photo Contest
Upload your photo for a chance to win a $150 Stew Leonard's Gift Card! - Oct 15- Nov 30, 2019
The moment the leaves change color and there’s frost on the pumpkin, do you fire up your oven and bake your family’s favorite fall treats? Maybe it’s your mom’s Pumpkin Pie or Grandma’s Apple Crisp? Or perhaps it’s your top secret Cinnamon Bun recipe? Snap a photo of your favorite fall baking item (of your creation, or another's) and submit it to our gallery anytime before Nov 30, 2019. We’ll choose one winner for a $150 Gift Card! Plus, two runners-up will each win a $50 Gift Card. Everyone who enters will be featured in our #StewsFallBakingContest photo gallery.
We Keep It Local
“My team and I love to visit the local, family farmers we’ve spent decades building relationships with. If we can get to the farm for lunch and be back home before dinner, that’s LOCAL to us.” In season, you’ll find daily deliveries and first crops of the season – fresh from the farm!
Blue Hills Orchard
Blue Hills Farm is a fifth generation family-owned farm in Wallingford, Conn., just 43 miles from Stew Leonard’s store in Norwalk. Eric Henry, his wife, and his mother farm more than 300 acres of apples, peaches and pears that are picked and brought to Stew Leonard’s daily.
Fix Brothers Farms
Hudson Valley, NY
Gary Fix and his brothers David and Bobby are fifth-generation owners of Fix Farms in Livingston, New York. Located only 90 miles from Stew Leonard’s store in Yonkers, Fix grows cherries, peaches, and pears.
The business began in 1870 by George Cassaday’s great-great grandfather. Originally it was a small family farm consisting of chickens, eggs, and hay to sustain the Cassaday family’s needs. The farm later grew to include fruits and vegetables that were marketed to Cassaday customers.
A fifth-generation farm in Northford, CT, Joe Defrancesco has been supplying Stew’s with farm fresh veggies and herbs for years! With over 120 acres of vegetables, fruits and greenhouses, Joe and his sons stay busy growing and picking the BEST! We are PROUD to offer it to you! A Stew’s trusted family farm since 1980!
Meet Lizbeth - Our Produce Pro In Paramus
Did you know more than 80% of our Managers at Stew’s have been promoted from within? Lizbeth is a great example of how Stew Leonard’s grows world-class managers through extensive training courses, scholarship programs and specialized mentorships. Learn more about Lizbeth and her journey up the ladder over the last 14 years at Stew’s - from cashier to Produce Manager of Stew Leonard’s newest store in Paramus, New Jersey.
Tell us about your FAVORITE teacher in 500 words or less for a chance to win them a $100 Amazon Gift Card, Pizza Party for their class and a $50 Gift Card to Stew's - for you!
Spend $100...Get A FREE ICE CREAM!
In the early 1970s, Stew Sr. wanted to find a way to say thank you to his customers. One day, he had an idea: he’d run a one-day special event to thank customers who spent $100 at Stew Leonard’s by giving them a free ice cream cone. In those days, Stew Leonard’s ice cream parlor was a little building just off to the side of the Norwalk store – right where the cookies are made today in Bethy’s Bakery – and an ice cream cone cost 35 cents. On the day of the promotion, a line of people waiting to get their free ice cream cone was wrapped around the building and many of his shoppers told Stew that they even bought a few extra items to get to $100! He decided right then and there that he’d always reward his shoppers with a free ice cream cone for spending $100. While the price of an ice cream cone is not 25 cents anymore, Stew Leonard’s philosophy remains the same: give as much as you can to the customer and they’ll come back again!
A Leonard Family Tradition
Here’s one of our favorite photos of Stew’s daughter, Bethy, serving up another perfect swirl of Stew’s soft serve ice cream in the summer of 1975. Bethy - and just about every Leonard family member since the store opened 50 years ago - spent her summer school breaks helping the family business by working at the ice cream counter. With the fourth generation of the Leonard family newly born, you’ll be sure to see the family tradition carry on for years to come!
Stew Leonard’ Butcher Shop: From Prairie to Plate
Stew Leonard’s goes to the source to find the freshest items for our customers – and that includes spending time on cattle ranches in Kansas, Montana, and beyond! Stew Leonard Jr. and his butchers regularly visit our ranchers to learn more about what goes into giving our shoppers the best-tasting, juiciest, and most tender steak available. Plus, they feel good getting to know the families who are working hard behind the scenes to raise America’s finest cattle.
Many of Stew Leonard’s butchers hold their MBAs, which is their Masters of Beef Advocacy from the National Cattlemen's Beef Association! They’re available to answer questions, share their favorite recipes for preparing and serving beef, and will custom-cut customers’ meat for free to your exact specifications.
When shopping for beef, look for a bright red color and milky white bones. And, of course, get to know your Stew Leonard’s butcher to find the best cut of meat to WOW your guests at the dinner table!
Filet mignon is the number one selling item year-round in Stew’s butcher shop! Sourced from ranchers throughout Kansas and Nebraska and taken from the tenderloin, filet mignon is the most popular cut at steakhouses. It’s lean and fork-tender, with light marbling that makes it juicy and delicious.
Stew’s butchers will custom cut for free your whole beef tenderloin, which is the name of the large cut of beef before it is sliced into steaks, or filet mignon. Here are some of Stew’s butchers’ tips for selecting and storing a whole beef tenderloin:
- A good rule of thumb to use when shopping for whole tenderloin is that one pound of untrimmed filet (fat on) will feed one person.
- When picking an unpeeled tenderloin, squeeze the meat and make sure it is soft—this means there is not a lot of fat. The softer it feels, and the more it bends, the better. A tenderloin that feels hard inside the package or does not bend as easily is higher in fat.
- Store the tenderloin in the coldest part of the refrigerator—usually this is on the bottom shelf.
- Be sure to cook and serve the tenderloin within three days to ensure its freshness. Remember to turn filets sparingly and do not pierce with a fork, or the juices will seep out.
New York Strip
Also known as the Kansas City strip, this cut is taken from the short loin. It is the second most popular cut after the filet but is firmer with a beefier taste. Ready to WOW your guests with a New York strip steak? Click here for a Leonard family favorite recipe for New York strip steak!
The ribeye is a perennial favorite of real cowboys and steak connoisseurs alike. This steak has a ribbon of marbling running through it and offers a unique blend of texture and flavor. Sourced from family-owned ranches in Kansas, many consider the ribeye to be the most flavorful of the popular cuts of beef! Click here for a 30-minute recipe to prepare a juicy ribeye steak.
Sourced from Kansas and cut from the flank, the skirt is a long flat piece of meat that is very flavorful and juicy. A great meat for fajitas, this tender steak can be grilled or rolled. Our chefs love to serve flank steak with a zesty chimichurri sauce.
The king of steaks and Stew’s favorite! Considered to be two steaks in one, the porterhouse contains a large boneless strip steak on one side of the bone and a petite tenderloin on the other side. Stew’s porterhouse steaks are primarily sourced from family-owned ranches in Kansas. Click here for Stew Leonard’s recipe for a grilled porterhouse steak with herb butter.
The original London Broil! Sourced from ranchers in Kansas, flank steak is great on the grill or wonderful when stuffed or rolled into beef pinwheels. Our chefs have shared a great grilled flank steak recipe here, served with the added WOW of Stew Leonard’s Naked shrimp.
Also known as a bone-in ribeye, tomahawks are an impressive way to WOW your guests at a special holiday celebration or anytime you need to feed a crowd! A dramatic cut, with up to 8 inches of exposed bone, it’s called a “tomahawk” because the steak and long bone resemble an axe. Stew Leonard’s tomahawk steaks are loaded with juicy, restaurant-quality beef and come directly from family-owned ranchers throughout the Midwest. Click here for an irresistible recipe that lets the tomahawk’s flavor shine though with the added layer of foil-roasted shallots.
Stew's Chicken Burgers
Meet Jamie DiStefano - 27 Years At Stew's
Jamie started at Stew’s as a young man back in 1992. He first worked in the Garden and Produce Departments of the Norwalk store. His hard work and outstanding customer service over the years helped him grow quickly within the company. He trained in the meat department and became one of Norwalk’s most-requested butchers by customers before being promoted to an Assistant Manager of the Butcher Shoppe. When Stew opened the Newington Store, he knew just who to call to open and run the Butcher Shoppe. Jamie was later promoted to Manager of both Meat and Seafood Departments, and helped oversee the Deli as well. In 2015 Jamie was chosen to be the Newington Store Vice President and is one of Stew Leonard’s most beloved leaders today.
Jamie and his wife Aimee are high school sweethearts. They are the proud parents of a son, Jamie, and a daughter, Haille.
Fresh Oysters From Right Around The Corner
Just two miles from Stew Leonard’s in Norwalk, Conn., sits one of the largest and last-standing oyster farms on the East Coast: Norm Bloom & Son. Since the 1940s, the Bloom family has harvested oysters from the deep, cold, and nutrient-rich waters along the coast of Connecticut. These oysters, which are pesticide-free, arrive at Stew Leonard’s Norwalk store within a few hours of harvesting; they offer a wonderful balance of salt and brine and are great on the half-shell, grilled, or shucked into soups and stews.
All About Oysters
Customers may not find a pearl in every oyster they eat, but they will love to discover the fresh, local taste of Long Island Sound’s Blue Point Oysters. Sourced from family owned businesses that have been farming the Sound for generations, these oysters are sent directly from the docks in Norwalk to Stew Leonard’s stores daily.
The Blue Point Oyster was named for Blue Point, Long Island in New York. Blue Point Oysters are full and meaty, about the size of your palm, and feature a salty yet refreshing taste. They are only 9 calories each, plus they’re are low fat but high in zinc and protein. Stew Leonard’s has been working with local suppliers Westport Aquaculture and Norm Bloom & Son for years; both companies farm only sustainable oysters, meaning they constantly seed and reseed local beds.
“There’s no better way to beat the heat this summer than by slurping an oyster and enjoying a cold glass of Sauvignon Blanc!” said Stew Leonard Jr., President & CEO of Stew Leonard’s. “There’s a myth that you can only eat oysters during months that have the letter ‘r’ in them, but Blue Point Oysters can be enjoyed at any time of year. My family especially loves them during the summertime – they’re great on the grill!”
Stew Leonard’s will sell more than 50,000 Blue Point Oysters every year, and customers have found a multitude of ways to enjoy them all year round, including raw on the half shell or the decadent Oyster Rockefeller.
Stew’s Top 5 Oyster FAQs:
How can I be sure that the oysters I purchase are safe to eat?
Stew Leonard’s will not sell oysters from suppliers who harvest them from waters that may be unsafe. The waters of our suppliers’ oyster beds in Long Island Sound are sampled regularly to determine the water quality.
What should oysters look like when I purchase them?
Oyster shells should have a healthy, gray color. Inside the shell, oysters are a creamy white, brownish gray and plump.
What do I do with the oysters until I begin cooking them?
The best way to keep oysters fresh is to refrigerate them where they will be shelf stable for 5 days.
How do you open oysters?
Place oyster flat side up on a hard surface. Anchor with a dish cloth or small towel. Place flathead screw driver in hinge part of oyster. With pressure, pry into oyster. As soon as the screwdriver penetrates, pry the two shells apart.
Which wines do you recommend serving with oysters?
Stew’s wine specialists recommend pairing oysters with French classics such as Sancerre, sauvignon blanc, Chablis, or rose.
All About Lobster!
- In one year, Stew Leonard’s will sell more than a half million pounds of lobster!
- We sell more than 115,000 lobster rolls every year and more than 25,000 pounds of lobster salad!
- Lobsters should be cooked on the day they are purchased. Store live lobsters in your refrigerator until you are ready to cook.
- It takes 5 to 6 pounds of soft-shell lobsters or 4 ½ to 5 ½ pounds of hard-shell lobsters to make a pound of lobster meat.
- Small lobsters taste as good as large lobsters, but the meat gets stringier once the lobster is in the 5-7 lb range.
- It takes lobsters an average of 5 to 7 years to grow to 1 to 1.5 lbs., and they grow more slowly as they get larger. A lobster that weighs 3 pounds is an estimated 15-20 years old, and a 25 pound lobster would be approximately 75-100 years old!
- During colonial days, lobsters were plentiful and were the food for the poor. There are records from the 1800s of servants requesting not to eat lobsters more than 3 times a week.
- A lobster’s brain is in its throat; a lobster breathes and listens with its legs; a lobster tastes with its feet.
- Lobsters don’t feel pain! They have no cerebral cortex, which is the area of humans’ brains that gives us the sensation of pain. Lobsters also have no vocal cords, so the hissing sound that you sometimes hear when they are cooked is the sound of air escaping from their shells.
- Lobster is a SUPER FOOD! For 3 ½ ounces of lobster meat is only 90 calories, compared to 163 calories for the same amount of chicken and 280 calories for sirloin steak. Lobster also contains omega-3 fatty acids, which helps to reduce hardening of the arteries and decrease the risk of heart attacks.
The Two Most Popular Ways to Cook FRESH LOBSTERBoiled: Fill a large pot with salted water. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the lobsters head-first. Begin timing and cook according to the table below. Once cooked, use tongs and remove the lobsters to the sink. If eating warm, drain the liquid and serve. If eating cold, place into ice-cold water for 30 minutes to cool. Refrigerate until ready to prepare.
One pound lobster = 8 minutes
Two pound lobster = 15 minutesThree pound lobster = 22 minutes Steamed: Place two inches of salted water in a large pot. Place a steamer rack in the pot. Cover and bring to a boil. Place the lobsters on the rack, cover and cook according to the table below. Once cooked, use tongs and remove the lobsters to the sink. If eating warm, drain the liquid and serve. If eating cold, place into ice cold water for 30 minutes to cool. Refrigerate until ready to prepare.
One pound lobster = 10 minutes
Two pound lobster = 18 minutes
Three pound lobster = 25 minutes
Try These Delicious Lobster Recipes
Certified Seafood Experts
When’s the last time YOU got to take a class totally dedicated to salmon? Or got to embarked on an intensive study of Alaska Seafood? If you were one of the Team Members working in Stew Leonard’s seafood departments, these classes – and more – would be part of the more than 24 hours of training you’d need to become one of Stew’s Certified Seafood Experts. So, when you’re not quite sure how many lobsters you’ll need for your backyard BBQ or need a few tips on how best to prepare a freshly cut swordfish steak, our skilled fishmongers won’t leave you floundering!
Celebrating Alaskan Seafood
Join the seafood experts at Stew Leonard’s for a celebration of wild-caught Alaska Seafood! June is the peak month for the freshest seafood coming out of the cold, pristine waters of Alaska, making it a wonderful time for all seafood lovers to include these flavorful, heart-healthy, and tender fish and shellfish into a fresh and easy summertime menu.
Alaska offers mouthwatering wild-caught seafood options for every taste and cooking method, including:
King Salmon: Also known as Chinook, these salmon are prized for their color, high oil content, firm texture and succulent flesh.
Sockeye Salmon: Known for their rich flavor and distinctive deep red flesh, which retains its color throughout cooking.
Halibut: With its firm, flaky texture and delicate flavor, Alaska Halibut has earned its reputation as the world's premium whitefish.
King Crab Legs: The largest and most impressive of all crabs caught in the world, Alaska King Crab is unmatched in flavor and texture.
Cod: Alaska Cod has moist, firm fillets, a distinctive large flake and a slightly sweet flavor
All of Stew Leonard’s seafood Team Members are accredited from Alaska Seafood U, and are well versed in sustainability, harvesting techniques and sourcing, product knowledge, and recipes.
Here are some of our favorite Alaskan seafood recipes
Meet Bovey Lu - Seafood Manager, Stew Leonard’s in Farmingdale & East Meadow
Bovey joined the Stew Leonard’s family as a seasonal Team Member in the Yonkers store’s produce department in 2005. He went on to serve as a part-time produce clerk at Stew’s in Newington before accepting the challenge to move to Long Island in 2016 to become the assistant manager of the seafood department at the Farmingdale store. He now oversees both the Farmingdale and East Meadow seafood departments.
One of Bovey’s favorite things about Stew’s is that “it’s such a family oriented business and, for me, it’s like it has become my family. I’ve been here my entire life!” Bovey is a third generation Team Member – his parents, siblings, and several uncles, aunts and cousins work for the company as well.
Stew's Ice Cream Social
Ice Cream Social at Stew’s Saturday, June 22 and Sunday, June 23, 2019 Noon – 7:00 p.m.
Join us at Stew’s Ice Cream Social for a sweet start to summer! Stew’s Team Members will scoop locally made hard ice cream into your choice of a cup or a sugar cone (ice cream flavors will vary by location). One scoop is $2.00, two scoops are $4.00, and every additional scoop is $1.50. Sprinkles included!
Meet Mrs. Leonard
Marianne Guthman Leonard and her family were one of the few fortunate families who were able to relocate to the United States and escape Nazi Germany just as the horror of the Holocaust began. In 1938, the Guthmans left their families and all they knew in Germany and settled in Norwalk to start a new life. Thanks to the help of a number of local charitable organizations, they quickly adjusted and began to flourish in America.
Marianne attended Norwalk schools where she had many friends and became a popular majorette and during her senior year of high school she was elected to be an attendant to Miss Norwalk High School during the Christmas Dance. It was that same year that she met another Norwalk High School alumni, Stew Leonard. Stew accompanied her to that dance, and to others, before Marianne left for the University of Connecticut to pursue a nursing degree.
But shortly into her college career, Marianne and Stew became engaged and then were married. Marianne took a job at Merchants Bank and Trust while Stew was running his family’s dairy, and together they began to build a life in Norwalk.
The Most Important Thing Is Family
Work and family were always a blended effort for Stew and Marianne; they worked hard to ensure that Clover Farms Dairy, and later Stew Leonard’s, got the attention and focus that the business needed, from spending time there before every holiday to help customers, to teaching their four children early on to take a role in the business. They made sure that family time was important, attending their children’s activities and making family dinners and holidays a top priority.
Marianne’s appreciation for the help that her family received when they moved to Norwalk has always shaped Marianne’s own sense of giving; finding ways to give back and contribute, from working with local organizations to steering programs at Stew Leonard’s, has always been important. But nothing has been more giving than her support of the Stew Leonard III Children’s Charities. This organization was born when Marianne and Stew lost their grandson, Stew Leonard III who drowned in a back yard swimming pool at just 21 months old. The charity was started by her son, Stew Leonard, Jr., and she has been an avid supporter, cheerleader and advocate. Started in Norwalk, CT, the charity has taught tens of thousands of children around the country to swim.
Meet Tom Anrico
Tom joined Stew Leonard’s on September 12, 1977. He started in the produce department when the Norwalk store only offered four produce items and worked his way through many positions before earning his current role as President of the Danbury store, including serving as Produce Manager, Deli Manager, Meat Manager, Garden and Christmas Shoppe Manager and Director of Sales in Norwalk. “I just love that Stew gave me the challenge and opportunity of taking over the Danbury Store,” says Tom. “I’ve met so many great Team Members and all of them welcomed me with open arms, making me feel part of the team. The best part of my job is teaching and coaching younger managers to be the best that they can be.”
May Is Water Safety Month
Stew Leonard Jr. and his wife Kim lost their toddler son in a drowning accident more than 30 years ago. To help prevent this tragedy from occurring in other families, the Leonards have raised more than $3 million dollars to support free or low-cost swimming lessons for children through the Stew Leonard III Water Safety Foundation, named in honor of their late son.
“May is Water Safety Awareness month and we use this time of year to remind parents that drowning is preventable. And yet, drowning is still the second leading cause of unintentional injury death for children,” says Kim Leonard, co-founder of Stew Leonard III Water Safety Foundation. “Our family hopes that our foundation’s message will make this a safe and enjoyable summer for all.”
To help spread their water safety message, Stew and Kim have written a book Stewie the Duck Learns to Swim, which has been used to support drowning prevention and water safety programs by fire departments, children’s hospitals, and police stations throughout the nation. There’s also board book, geared to children age 3 and younger, as well as a Super Stewie Safety Toss mobile game.
For more information about water safety awareness, please visit www.stewietheduck.org.
Meet Our Farmer - Joe DeFranceso
Joe DeFrancesco has been one Stew’s trusted local farmers for more than 20 years! The DeFrancesco family started farming in in 1903 in Northford, Conn. and are now in their fifth generation of ownership. Joe took over the farm from grandfather in 1972; today, Joe and his four sons work more 100 acres of farmland and several greenhouses, growing peppers, squash, tomatoes, eggplant, lettuce, cucumbers and the most gorgeous flowers you’ve ever seen each spring and fall. Stew Leonard’s is proud to bring Joe’s farm fresh food and flowers to YOU every day!
Garden Shop Q & A
1. What is the difference between an annual and perennial?Annuals are plants that live their whole life span in one season. They grow, flower, set seed, and die all in one year. Stew Leonard’s Garden Shoppes most popular annuals are geraniums, impatiens, petunias, marigolds, and begonias.
Perennials are plants that take a few years to mature, some lasting 50 years or more. Most flower for shorter periods of time than annuals and can be divided after becoming established. For continuous color all season long, use perennials that bloom at different times. Stew Leonard’s Garden Shoppes most popular perennials include hostas, lavender, bleeding hearts, astilbe, coneflowers, and dianthus.
2. How do I plant and take care of newly planted trees and shrubs?
Start by digging a hole approximately 2.5 times the diameter of the pot. The depth of the hole is measured by the root ball in the container and not the container depth, as not all pots will be full. Remove the plant from the container by tapping the sides of the container to loosen the soil. Examine the root system. Are the roots visible? Is there any sign of insects? Take a knife and score the roots to loosen the soil. This will make it easier for the plant to establish itself in its new environment.
Put the plant in the hole and fill it halfway with a mixture of 1/3 dehydrated cow manure, 1/3 peat moss (or 1/3 coconut coir, which is an organic substitute), and 1/3 top soil. Water, let the soil settle, and fill again with soil until the soil is level with the ground. After planting, mulch your shrub or tree to prevent water from evaporating and weeds from growing. It is also important to water every day for the first two weeks, then two to three times a week for the first year.
The most popular trees at Stew Leonard’s Garden Shoppes are dogwoods, cherry, magnolia and different varieties of Japanese maple. The most popular shrubs include forsythia, boxwoods, rhododendrons, andromeda, holly, and junipers.
3. How much mulch do I need?
Stew Leonard’s Garden Shoppes sells mulch in 3 cubic foot bags, which covers 18 square feet. To start, measure the area you’ll want to cover and then multiply the length by the width to get the square feet. Divide your total square feet by 18 to calculate the number of bags you’ll need for approximately a depth of 2 inches of coverage. So, for example, a 10’ by 15’ bed is 150 square feet. A 3 cubic foot bag covers 18 square feet, so you’ll need about 8 bags to cover the bed.
Celebrate Mom at Stew Leonard’s in East Meadow!
Join the team at Stew’s for a special Mother’s Day Brunch on Saturday, May 11, 2019 at 10 a.m. and Noon. Stew Leonard’s chefs will offer a brunch of scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, bagel strata, French toast sticks and fruit. Every mom who attends the brunch will receive a special flower upon arrival and families are invited to take a photo with Wow the Cow. Click For More Info
It All Started With The Dairy
In the late sixties, Stew Leonard was delivering fresh milk from his Father’s Dairy in Norwalk, CT - a heritage his family carried on since 1921. Stew loved to drive his dairy truck equipped with a cow head on top and a horn that would “Moo” as children waved, but he realized the milk delivery business was going the way of the horse and buggy. He knew it was time to start something new when the state informed him that Clover Farms Dairy was in the path of a new highway. Stew Leonard's dream was to build a retail dairy store where children could watch milk being bottled while mothers did their shopping in a farmer's market atmosphere. In December 1969, Stew Leonard's opened its doors - a 17,000 square foot store carrying just eight items.
Since 1969, Stew Leonard’s grew at an amazing pace - taking the fresh dairy concept and expanding it into meats, fish, produce, bakery, cheese and wine. Unlike traditional grocery stores that sell an average 30,000 items, each Stew Leonard's store carries only 2,200 items, chosen specifically for their freshness, quality and value. The company has received worldwide acclaim for excellence in customer service and quality and is featured in two of management expert Tom Peter's books: A Passion for Excellence and Thriving on Chaos. In 1992, Stew Leonard's earned an entry into The Guinness Book of World Records for having "the greatest sales per unit area of any single food store in the United States.”
Still all in the family! Stew Sr. and his wife Marianne have long since retired, but you’ll still find them handing out warm chocolate chip cookies or attending special events at the store in Norwalk, CT often. Stew Leonard's has remained a family business. In 1987, Stew Leonard, Jr. - Stew's son - took over the reins and is now President and CEO. Stew Leonard’s daughter Beth founded the famous Bethy's Bakery and heads up the Gift Center. Daughter Jill is Vice President of Culture and Communication. Stew Leonard’s now has 6 food stores in CT, NY and will be opening a 7th location in Paramus, NJ with Stew’s nephew Jake as Store President.
Did you ever wonder where our big Rule 1 and Rule 2 rock at the front door of our store came from?
Well, a few days after I opened our little dairy on November 30, back in 1969, I was thrilled to be standing by the front door welcoming our customers. We had only seven Team Members at the time, and I had everything I owned in the world invested in our new little dairy store. Suddenly, a lady came up to me burning mad. (The veins were even popping out in her neck.) She had a half gallon of our wonderful Holiday Egg Nog in her hand. She thrust it at me and said, "This egg nog doesn't taste right!" I took a sip from the carton and said, "It's supposed to be spicy. It tastes fine to me!" Then I handed it to our store manager, Barry, who was standing next to me and he tasted it, too. Barry also said to the lady, "It tastes fine to me." With that, she screamed, "I want my money back!" I reached into my pocket and as I started to hand her a dollar bill (egg nog was 95 cents a half gallon in those days), she snatched the dollar out of my hand and didn't even give me my nickel change. Then she bolted out the door.
The last words I heard her yell were: “I’m never coming back in this store again!” That night over dinner, I still couldn’t get the angry customer out of my mind. I told my wife, Marianne, the story and expected to get a little sympathy from her. But instead, Marianne got upset at me, too. She said the customer was right. I was wrong! With a family of four children, Marianne had to do a lot of shopping herself, so she understood exactly how the egg nog customer was feeling. Marianne said to me, "Stew, I hope you are not going to run your new store like so many other store owners do. They always think the customer is lying and never believe the customer. I bet your egg nog probably did have too much spice in it. Your customer didn't like the taste and she's the boss. Even in your own store, the customer is the boss, not you.”
That night I couldn't stop thinking about the egg nog customer. I had to agree that Marianne was right, and I was wrong! The next day on my way to work, I drove by Bates Monument Works on Riverside Avenue in Norwalk. They sell grave stones for cemeteries. They were unloading a huge rock of granite off their truck. That gave me an idea. I stopped and arranged for them to deliver the big 6-ton granite rock over to the front door of my store. Then, right there, in front of all our customers, I had them carve our new two rule motto that I had just been taught into the face of the stone.
Rule 1. The customer is always right! Rule 2. If the customer is ever wrong, Reread Rule 1.
Meet "Mozzarella Joe"
Of course being the “World’s Largest Dairy Store” we must have amazing cheese! One of our best sellers at Stew Leonard’s is our Fresh Mozzarella. Made from scratch every day, fresh mozzarella being crafted right before your eyes is one of the greatest shows to see at Stew’s, too! “Mozzarella Joe” Joe Dibiase has been a part of the team here at Stew Leonard’s for almost 25 years. 17 of those years you could find him at the mozzarella counter tossing up freshly made balls of warm mozzarella! Kids of all ages love stopping to talk to Joe and get a little piece of his expertly-made cheese. One of Joe’s favorite things to do during the day is entertain the children that come to say hello, stretching and tossing the mozzarella to their applause. Giving folks a tasty free sample bite to enjoy as they shop is a joy for Joe. With his warm personality and love for his work, it’s no wonder fans have lovingly nicknamed him “Mozzarella Joe.”
Meet Our Dairy Farmers
Just like Stew Leonard’s, Vaughn and Susan Sherman have something special to celebrate this year: 50 years of marriage! They’re dairy farmers in upstate New York and have been supplying Stew Leonard’s with organic milk since 2010. It’s a family affair on the Sherman farm, with son Ryan overseeing crop rotation and what they feed their more than 300 dairy cows spread across 500 acres. Vaughn and Susan’s eight grandchildren all live within a mile of the farm, so they visit regularly to feed the calves and take care of the chickens.
As Susan says, “My family and I work hard every day to deliver the best organic milk to Stew Leonard’s. We’re proud to raise our cows in open pastures and feed them a diet free of antibiotics and pesticides.”
Stew's Little Farm
In 1967, Stew Sr. was told that the State of Connecticut planned on building the new Route 7 highway through the center of the Clover Farms Dairy. They would be forced to relocate. He set his sights on an old farm on U.S. Route 1. It was owned by a woman named Hazel Schultze, who had turned her large, pink house into a bed-and-breakfast and her side yard was several acres of meadow, dotted with grazing sheep.
Stew wanted to buy 1 ½ acres of her farm to build his new dairy, but Hazel Schultze didn’t want to sell. She wanted the pasture for her sheep. Stew visited her over the next few weeks and came up with the idea that if Mrs. Schultze sold him the land, he would build a farm for her sheep. He would even add some goats, ducks, and chickens to make it a “real” farm, and she could visit with her sheep every day. He even agreed to hire her friend, George, who had been taking care of the animals for her. Mrs. Schultze agreed, and Stew could see his dream coming true.
This was how “Stew’s Little Farm” began and it has grown steadily ever since. When the Danbury store was built, a farm was part of the original plans and then Yonkers, NY followed suit in 1999. Since the original store opened in 1969 there has always been a “Stew’s Little Farm” where families could come, enjoy the outdoors, have some ice cream and pet the animals.
Hop on over to our Events Calendar to find out about our Easter Eggstravaganzas, Egg Painting Classes, Little Farm Opening Day Celebrations, Cooking Classes and More!