From its humble beginnings as a small dairy store founded in 1969 with seven employees, Stew Leonard's has grown to become not only the World's Largest Dairy Store, but one of the most renowned grocery stores, with annual sales of nearly $300 million and almost 2,000 Team Members. In addition to the headquarters store in Norwalk, Conn., Stew Leonard's has stores in Danbury, Conn. and Yonkers, N.Y and Newington, Conn.
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.
In the late sixties, Stew Leonard, Charles' son, realized the milk delivery business was going the way of the horse and buggy.
He knew it was time to start something new was driven home 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.
Stew Leonard's has grown at an amazing pace - and 30 additions have since been added to the original store. Stew Leonard's has taken the fresh dairy concept and expanded 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 2,000 items, chosen specifically for their freshness, quality and value.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. Son Tom opened the 2nd Stew Leonard's in Danbury Connecticut in 1991.
His daughter Beth founded the famous Bethy's Bakery and heads up the Gift Center. Daughter Jill is Vice President of Culture and Communication. The success of this family-owned business and their legion of loyal shoppers is largely due to their passionate approach to customer service: "Rule #1 -- The Customer is Always Right"; Rule #2 - If the Customer is Ever Wrong, Re-Read Rule #1." This principle is so essential to the foundation of the company that it is etched in a three-ton granite rock (click here to learn about the history of "Our Policy") at each store's entrance.
In order to create happy customers, Stew Leonard's is also recognized for their management philosophy: "Take good care of your people and they in turn will take good care of your customers." It is this philosophy that has helped earn Stew Leonard's ranking on FORTUNE Magazine's "100 Best Companies to Work For in America" list for the past nine consecutive years..
Stew Leonard's was dubbed the "Disneyland of Dairy Stores" by the New York Times, because of its own milk processing plant, costumed characters, scheduled entertainment, petting zoo and animatronics throughout the stores.
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."