Stew Leonard’s is a supermarket with four locations in Connecticut and New York, but if you’ve ever visited one, you’ll know that it’s not a traditional grocery store by any stretch of the imagination. Barnlike décor, animatronic singing animals, winding aisles, and epic free samples await each customer at this unconventional supermarket, opened as a dairy store and petting zoo in 1969. Here are 18 things you most likely didn’t know about Stew’s.
1. Stew Leonard's history can be traced back to the early 1920s, when Charles Leo Leonard started Clover Farms Dairy in Norwalk, Connecticut. It was a state-of-the-art dairy by the standards of the time, with a pasteurizing and bottling plant, and fresh milk delivered daily by trucks that had plastic cows on the front that "mooed" for the neighborhood children.
2. Stew Leonard’s was dubbed the “Disneyland of Dairy Stores” by The New York Times because of its costumed characters, scheduled entertainment, petting zoo, and animatronics throughout the stores.
3. 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.
4. The average Stew Leonard’s employs twice the number of employees as a traditional grocery store.
5. Stew’s University — or Stew’s U — offers corporate seminars on customer service, creating happy team members, and even VIP tours of the store to companies such as Citibank, McDonald’s, and AT&T.
6. Unsold baked goods are donated to local charities at the end of each day.
7. Stew Leonard’s opened in 1969 as a 17,000-square-foot dairy store with just seven employees and eight items. Today, it has more than 2,000 employees.
8. More than 20 million customers visit their four grocery stores each year.
9. Every employee receives 50 hours of training each year.
10. Fifty-two percent of Stew Leonard’s current employees met their spouse while working at Stew’s.
11. Their chefs serve more than 100,000 meals to customers every week.
12. Every year, Stew Leonard’s sells more than 1.5 million chocolate chip cookies, two million half-gallons of milk, one million pounds of filet mignon, one million pounds of lobster, 250,000 pounds of fresh mozzarella, 175,000 pumpkins, and 50,000 Christmas trees.
13. If a customer spends $100 or more, she or he receives a free ice cream cone.
14. While traditional grocery stores sell an average of 45,000 items, each Stew Leonard’s store carries only 2,200 items.
15. Eighty percent of the products sold in-store are fresh — that is, brought in daily or prepared in-store.
16. Stew Leonard’s has awarded more than $500,000 in scholarships to high school-age employees.
17. Since 1979, Stew Leonard’s has donated more than 68,000 turkeys to local churches, senior centers, and civic centers through their annual Turkey Brigade to help provide Thanksgiving day meals for families in need.
18. Each year, Stew Leonard's donates more than $25,000 of their customers’ spare change to local charities via their Wishing Well, which is located at the entrance of each store.