Around The Store With Stew
You Can Now Shop At StewLeonards.com!
We just launched our redesigned website with new ways to shop at StewLeonards.com. You can shop by Specials, What's New, Local, Organic, recipes, and more, as you earn points on the Stew Leonard's app. We're even giving you $10 off your first delivery or curbside pickup order when you use promo code NEWSITE at checkout. You can also get same day delivery to homes up to a 45-minute drive away from all seven of our store locations.
just opened in Paramus, NJ. I visited last Saturday with my nephew Jake. If you want to see an ultra-modern store, go check it out. They are also opening in Danbury and Westport, CT. First, you scan your Prime app as you enter the store. Then, there must be 1,000 cameras in the ceiling recording every item you put in your cart. Everything is by the UNIT. Honey Crisp apples are 99 cents EACH. It’s like what Trader Joe’s does with their bananas. Met a customer in the store from Stew’s and he recommended we get their Rotisserie Chicken. We “bought” one… meaning we just walked out of the store without going through a check-out lane. Amazon recorded all our purchases and simply charged our account. Problem is, I looked at a cookie package and Nutpods in the dairy aisle and then put them back, but I guess we didn’t put them back in the right spot. We were charged for those two items along with the chicken. Like all new stores, they have some kinks to work out, but it’s worth a visit.
Drones In The Cattle Pasture
Shane Tiffany at the Tiffany Cattle Ranch in Kansas told me that it’s hard to hire cowboys to go out and check on the cattle on his 7,000 acres. Now he’s experimenting with drones. To deliver the feed to his cattle, he’s also experimenting with driverless tractors! Who would have thought?
Inflation, Inflation, Inflation
Turn on the news, talk to your friends, and inflation is today’s buzzword. The reality is that our farmers and ranchers are getting hit with higher costs. When I speak to them, they tell me, "It's costing me double to fill up my tractor with fuel. And corn prices (#1 grain for their animals), which cost me $5-$6 a bushel last year, are over $7 this year." We’re pushing back with our suppliers and splitting the cost increases. I do want to keep them happy because they are the ones that keep Stew’s shelves FULL!
The Markets Seem To Be Easing Up
A customer asked me how much the lobster price was, and I said, “I have to check my watch!” We were selling lobsters at $16.99 lb. last year. Now they are under $10. We’ve held ground beef at $3.99 lb. all year and many of the restaurant cut steaks have come down in price (Filet, Ribeye, Strip, Porterhouse). Fingers crossed.
We Gathered 15 Customers At Stew’s In Farmingdale
to discuss their shopping experience. Their feedback makes me happy:
• Have more specials! (We’re working on that!)
• Very helpful butchers. Need a sign to tell us how to freeze meat. Double wrap in freezer paper, plastic wrap, and then put in zip-lock bag. Main thing is to keep the air out. Also, LABEL IT. I pull things out of my freezer and forget how long ago I bought them!
• We want more product demos! We have recently reintroduced our demo program around the store. You should see at least 6 going on during the day. Also, you can always ask for a taste!
• We love Boar’s Head cold cuts… What happened? We parted ways due to continual price increases. They are now around $15.99 - $16.99 lb. for turkey. We introduced Stew’s Gold Reserve and it’s
$3 lb. less. We’ve done taste tests and Stew’s Gold Reserve beat Boar’s Head in a blind taste test. Plus, Stew’s Gold Reserve turkeys are never given any antibiotics or added hormones. Much cleaner product. Sales have been robust and please ask for a sample at the deli counter.
• Products we want: Bring back your original Stew’s Balsamic Vinaigrette (we’re working on it!). Bring back the garlic butter … We want eggplant meatballs … Bring back the dog biscuit bar … Love the Farmer’s Focus chicken with the QR code to the farm … Love the fish but bring in some Arctic Char.
• We like your amazing people … They’re very helpful and friendly … Your managers must treat them well (We like to say you can’t have happy customers without happy team members!) It’s clean … Packages are appealing, and everything is fresh on the shelves … It’s a family business and you help the community … My kids love the new singing banana plush toy (that’s my daughter Chase singing!)
• We don’t like... that there are not enough “cut throughs” in your one-way aisles … Can’t buy one muffin/croissant/bagel at the coffee bar (like Starbucks) … Why don’t you sell your smaller containers of picnic salads at the deli … Same with the croutons in Produce … One customer had 104 “free ice creams and coffees” on her app. (We’re working on another way to use your app points. Hang in there!)
Last Chance To Get Local
Our local fruit and vegetable season should end by the first week of October. Our Yonkers store had great success with a local farmers’ market event. Customers loved it! The recent heat and high temperatures (over 100 degrees!) in California are affecting crops and making the harvest difficult.
Changing Over From Summer To Fall
Goodbye to beach items and shrinking our displays of picnic salads! Hello to chicken pot pies, back to school items, football party appetizers, chicken wings and hot soups. We are also setting up our HALLOWEEN DRIVE THROUGHS at each store. The kids love them and so do the parents. We’re setting up Trick or Treat events, etc. Love seeing the fall mums in the store. We love color!
Cool New Products
We just introduced Stew’s organic popcorn in 50-calorie snack packs. We sell over 1,000 bags a week. Stew’s Everything Bagel Kettle Chips (we saw them at Trader Joe’s), Stew’s Pretzel Rods, and Stew’s Sweet Potato Tortilla Style Chips. Killing it. 12,000 bags in 6 weeks. See more NEW Products HERE
Products We're Working On
Queso sauce dip, Keto-friendly protein mix, shredded crab salad at the fish bar, a “cracker jack” type popcorn mix with caramel corn and roasted peanuts. Yum! Plus, a fresh made focaccia in my sister’s bakery.
Helping The Community
We sponsored the following organizations recently through our Wishing Well, including the Connecticut Food Bank, St. Jude, Food Rescue US, Farmingdale Public Library, St Killian’s Food Pantry, Crohn's and Colitis Foundation, Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement, Firefighters Association of the State of New York, Newington High School Project Graduation, Literacy Volunteers of Central Connecticut, and many more. Also, any leftover food is donated. We usually have 3 vans show up each morning and the food oftentimes goes to support senior citizens.
Update on Stewie the Duck Swim School
This spring a dream will come true! We are going to open a swim school in honor of our son in Norwalk, CT. I grew up with learning the famous BOGO (Buy One GET One FREE!). In the swim school, it’s going to be Buy One GIVE One FREE! Everyone buying a lesson will sponsor a lesson for an underprivileged child in the community. We now give out 10,000 free lessons a year mainly through YMCAs and Red Cross. We are hoping to double that when the school opens. BTW, any donations go toward these efforts through our tax-exempt charity. Check out the website, Stewietheduck.org.
What Are You Building In Your Original Norwalk Store?
Long overdue renovation of the Norwalk store. We took down the 25-year-old “hoop house” and are attaching the Garden Center to our main building. That’s stage one. Then, we are going to upgrade all our display cases in the store with energy efficient lighting and refrigeration. Store should look brand new, but we won’t be changing the character! Then, in January, we’re going to combine ice cream and coffee and move the bathrooms. And we’re not going to close the store down for one minute! Seat belts on!
Lunch with Dad
You have to cherish the moments you get with your 92-year-old father. He’s still sharp as a tack and so is my mom at 90. Hope I have their genes. We talked about life and how important it is to have a “grateful list” each day. Of course, we discussed Stew’s (insists that the corn is fresh from the farm each morning!) and our favorite topic … losing weight!
The talk of the Stew’s liquor stores is HIGH NOON hard seltzer. It’s flying. Also, Rosés continue their hot streak. Jessie and Jon Bon Jovi continue to kill it with their Hampton Water Rosé. My daughter Blake just returned from France (her husband Edouard is from Bordeaux). They made some great connections with some outstanding small vineyards and will be importing soon. These will be added to our hidden gems collection that drinks like wine for twice the price! And … tequila, tequila, tequila! This is a category that continues strong sales momentum. Casamigos is a top seller in the wine stores. First time a tequila has been in the top 3 spot!
What’s Trending On Our Instagram Channel
• A highlight reel of Charli D’Amelio and family’s visit to Stew’s reeled in over 67K plays this week!
• A hot, buttered lobster roll video reached over 40K plays.
• Facebook Shop went bananas last week for the Singing Banana plush toy. It reached 10K, sending 150 “clicks” to the Shop The Gift site.
My Daughter Ryann’s 1st Wedding Anniversary
With over 4.4 million plays on Facebook and YouTube, my father-daughter dance video celebrated Ryann and Matt’s wedding day. In honor of their first wedding anniversary, I thought it would be fun to share the video again. If you tune in, make sure you have a box of tissues handy!
Here's What Makes Me Smile
Danbury: “Andres approached me and asked me what I was looking for. I needed some mashed avocado. He went and made it for me! He did it with a smile on his face and positive energy. You are very lucky to have Andres as a part of your team!’
East Meadow: “My daughter got her finger caught in the cart. She was screaming and Sheila came over with a bag of ice. Sheila was so sweet, patient, and helpful the entire time!
Newington: “Mark to the rescue! While I was leaving your store my bag broke, and I dropped all my items including a four pack of Stewart’s cream soda. You can imagine how embarrassed I was. Mark came straight over and immediately replaced the soda. You have a shining star as an employee at your establishment and I couldn’t be more thankful to Mark for helping me. Thank you, Mark!”
Paramus: “I needed help ordering catering due to the death of a friend. I called your store and Anneika answered and was able to help me greatly. She was extremely customer friendly, knew her products, polite, and patient. Anneika is truly a great employee and an asset to Stew Leonard’s.”
“A couple of weeks ago when I was in the Paramus store, I stopped by the very busy, clean, and fresh Seafood Dept. to see what fillet I was going to grill for dinner. Since there were so many salmon fillet choices, I asked for help/suggestions. That's when I was directed to Rose. She was so kind to take the time to tell me the differences and made some suggestions. Thank you so much, Rose! My husband said that the salmon fillet that we grilled was absolutely DELISH!”
Farmingdale: “Customers from the focus group RAVED about George in Produce and our cashiers Lorna and Margo (always a line of customers waiting for her!).
Yonkers: “I dropped my ice coffee, as I bent over to pick it up, my shopping cart and daughter started rolling into the parking lot. Quenton came SPRINTING/FLYING across the parking lot to grab the cart. He was amazing. You need to give Quenton a raise!
Norwalk: “I called the wine store to pick up an order. I hung up and realized I hadn’t given him my name or car info. When I pulled up to the curb, Moises smiled, waved, and called out, “Hello, it’s so good to see you today!” I’m guessing you don’t have any other customers with bright blue cars. I loved my case of King’s Flower Rosé & Fireball Nippers! HAHA! This is just one of the MANY reasons I no longer buy alcohol anyplace else!”
How Sweet It Is
We measure Brix, or the level of sweetness in our fruit and vegetables, as a regular part of our quality testing to ensure we’re bringing you the best of the best. The higher the Brix reading, the higher the sugars. Watermelon is tasting pretty sweet right now with a sweetness level of 12. Two weeks ago, it was around an 8. Corn on the cob is testing at a higher Brix now, too, at about a 16.5. It should get to a value of 18 within the next couple of weeks.
What You're Drinking Now
Sales of wines in a can continue to grow. Rosé from southern France is the hot wine right now. I asked my good friend, the author and wine maker Allison Crow, whether it was okay to put an ice cube in your wine in hot weather. She replied, “Stew, it’s okay to put an ice cube in your wine as long as you know, IT’S NOT OKAY TO PUT AN ICE CUBE IN YOUR WINE!” I guess the same goes for a Chocolate Chip Cookie!
Inflation and Higher Food Costs
We’re noticing some easing up in the markets, especially meat. We are fighting every day to keep our prices as low as possible and still get the best and freshest product available in the markets
What's The Latest?
• The remodeling of our store in Norwalk is going well.
• Our stores on Long Island had a great Farmer’s Market Day. We brought in many of our local suppliers, and they displayed and sampled their products.
• Costumed character birthday parties at the stores are booking up fast. Kids love the cupcakes from my sister Bethy’s bakery and a visit from Wow the Cow.
• Lobster rolls continue to be on a “roll.”
• Our filet mignon burger is outselling our ribeye burger.
• Chicken burger is a rockstar.
• Local produce is just hitting in Jersey, Long Island, and Connecticut. Our corn is delivered fresh from the farm every morning (that’s one of my dad’s must-haves!).
• Our seafood team in Yonkers cut a 130lb. tuna while customers watched. Sold out that day!
• New individual bags of Stew’s organic popcorn arrived. My grandkids love them!
• One out of ten customers is opting for food delivery.
• We discontinued Boar’s Head (too many price increases) and replaced it with Stew’s Gold Reserve. Overall, our cold cut sales have increased, and customers love the lower prices (and the products!).
• The new Singing Banana Plushie toy is selling like hot cakes. We can barely keep them on the shelves. An ode to our Chiquita banana animatronic show - it's a customer favorite.
Everyone at Stew's Had a Chance to Win $820 Million
We treated all our Team Members at Stew’s to a Mega Millions lottery ticket and gave them a shot at becoming a mega millionaire!
Team Member Shoutouts
• Samantha in Yonkers ran out to the parking lot to find a customer after she found the shopper’s purse with all her credit cards, driver’s license, debit card, etc. Thank you, Sam!
• A customer wrote in to tell us that Chantal in Danbury jump started her car. As the customer wrote, “Chantal’s generosity and kindness were much appreciated.” Thank you also to Kelly and Luigi in Farmingdale for helping another stranded customer by jump starting her car.
• A Norwalk catering customer tells us, “Wendy in Norwalk was patient and helped me organize a catering order for my party. It was a real success!”
• “Nelson in East Meadow went out of his way to help me pick THE BEST selection of produce,” said a shopper on Long Island.
• In Newington: “Shawn made me a deli sandwich on the spot. He even walked me to the register and helped me grab a few items I forgot.”
• And in Paramus, “Michelle was very kind by helping me replace my Stew’s gift card.”
Leonard Family Updates
I brought my Dad to the store over the 4th of July. Wow was he happy! 100 customers must have greeted him. “I remember when you delivered milk to my house,” was a common theme.
Big news! My sister Jill’s kidney failed a few years ago, but she just had a successful transplant operation and is smiling “ear to ear.”
More big news! I'm a grandfather again. My daughter Blake had a baby girl and gave her another unique name, Inés, like she did with the two boys, Romeo, and Axel. Mom and daughter are doing great.
We did a tasting of Jesse Bongiovi's wine, Hampton Water, at the Farmingdale Wine Store. There were 100 signed bottles by his dad, Jon Bon Jovi, and they raffled off an autographed guitar. Big success!
Stewie The Duck Swim School
My wife Kim and I are working on opening a Stewie the Duck Swim School in Norwalk this winter across the street from the grocery store, next door to Stew’s Wines. All the profits from the swim school will be donated right back into the community – our goal is to give away 10,000 free swim lessons every year to families who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford them. We’ll post more information on the Stewie the Duck website once we get closer to the grand opening.
What I'm Grilling
One of the fun things I’ve been grilling this summer is vegetable pizza. I call this a MOP pizza, so you remember what goes on it – mushrooms, onions, and peppers. I added some grilled corn, too, and of course plenty of our fresh mozzarella. CLICK HERE FOR THE RECIPE