|This article needs additional citations for verification. (May 2008)|
|Stew Leonard, Jr., President & CEO|
|Revenue||$341 million (2011)|
Number of employees
Stew Leonard's is a chain of four supermarkets in Connecticut and New York which Ripley's Believe It or Not! deemed "The World's Largest Dairy", with Fortune magazine listing Stew Leonard's as one of the "100 Best Companies to Work For".
"Anyone who comes from Connecticut or thereabouts knows this landmark chain of grocery stores where mechanized cows sing and roosters crow," according to a writer for the Sun-Sentinel of Florida. A typical Stew Leonard's store will attract customers from a wider geographic area than a typical supermarket because customers are willing to drive longer distances. The store's fame comes from its innovative in-store marketing, which includes a barnlike wood decor, a winding path for shoppers instead of straight, parallel aisles, and animatronic singing animals perched above the shelving.
Founded in 1969 with seven employees in Norwalk, Connecticut, there currently are also stores in Danbury, Connecticut; Yonkers, New York; and Newington, Connecticut. The latter opened on May 5, 2007. The original Norwalk store was previously a farm whose owner required prospective purchasers to take care of all the farm animals. No one was willing to do that except for Stew Leonard, who thought that he could make the farm an attraction at his store. As Stew's previous occupation was as a milkman (working alongside his father), the store began just as a dairy store. The store became more popular because of the farm and the animals, which he employed in a children's petting zoo, still in existence.
The store is also known for its customer-service policy, which greets shoppers at each store's entrance etched into a three-ton rock:
- The customer is always right.
- If the customer is ever wrong, re-read rule #1.
The New York Times called Stew Leonard's the "Disneyland of Dairy Stores." The store has taken tips from educational practices, where they implement visual, auditory, and kinesthetic strategies into their sales. Stew Leonard’s have created animatronics characters called the "Farm Fresh Five" that perform songs and dance. The stores are not set up like traditional grocery stores; one must walk through the entire store (though there are short cuts). As customers walk through a path of aisles, they are greeted by different employees dressed up in costumes and by animatronic favorites such as Twinkie the Kid, the Chiquita banana, and Clover, a cow's head that moos when one pulls its rope. The stores also feature petting zoos and outdoor cafes in the warmer months and sell a variety of prepared meals year round. Customers are also offered an unusually large number of food samples for a supermarket, as well as free drink samples.
Stew Leonard's is not only the world's largest dairy store; it is also in the Guinness Book of World Records for having "the greatest sales per unit area of any single food store in the United States." It has been listed as one of Fortune magazine's "Top 100 Businesses to Work For" ten years in a row. It currently has annual sales of around $300 million and has about 2,000 employees. Stew Leonard's also claims "Hello, from over 3,000 dairy cows in Ellington, CT!" (their own farm) on its milk cartons.
The store has a clone in South Florida called Penn Dutch with locations in Hollywood and Margate. The owners of Penn Dutch visited Stew Leonard's to get merchandising ideas.
In 1993, Stew Leonard Sr. was convicted of committing tax fraud through an elaborate scheme including short-weighting to divert more than $17 million in cash register receipts over a ten-year period. He was sentenced to 52-months in jail. Court documents indicated that Stew Leonard Jr. played a role in the tax fraud. However, in the interest of protecting his son and the store, Stew Leonard Sr. pleaded guilty in exchange for an agreement from the prosecutors to not bring charges against Stew Leonard Jr.
- "Stew Leonard's Store Fact Sheet" (PDF). stewleonards.com. January 16, 2012. Retrieved August 21, 2012.
- Hartz-Seeley, Deborah (December 17, 2007). "A trip north takes me to Stew Leonard's that reminds me of Penn Dutch". Retrieved December 20, 2007.
- Garry, Michael (17 October 2011). "Leonard Family Looks to Next Generation". Supermarket News. Retrieved 12 December 2012.
- "The History of Stew Leonard's". stewleonards.com. Retrieved August 21, 2012.
- In Norwalk, A 'Disneyland' Dairy Store
- Fresh milk products and great customer service at Stew Leonard's!
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