Stew Leonard's - Making a Difference in People's Lives
Does your family crave free food samples like sirloin burgers, pizza, and mac n cheese? Would the kids love to pet a live lobster, visit a zoo and sing and dance along with state-of-the-art animatronics? Would you love to catch a glimpse of Martha Stuart or Bobby Flay? If you are shouting YES, then Stew Leonard’s is the place for you!
About Stew Leonard’s
Stew Leonard's began as a small dairy store founded in 1969 with just seven employees. Today, Stew Leonard's is still family-owned and operated, but has grown to become a nearly $400 million dollar business with more than 2,500 employees. The company has received worldwide acclaim for excellence in customer service and quality and was selected to FORTUNE magazine's "100 Best Companies to Work for in America" list for ten consecutive years.
Stew’s has 6 stores in New York (Yonkers) and Connecticut, and earned its nickname, the “Disneyland of Dairy Stores” because of its country-fair atmosphere, with costumed characters and animated entertainment throughout the store that keep children entertained while parents shop.
All employees live by the motto: Rule #1 — The Customer is Always Right”; Rule #2 – If the Customer is Ever Wrong, Re-Read Rule #1. The company’s culture is built around an acronym for S.T.E.W.: Satisfy the customer; Teamwork gets it done; Excellence makes it better; WOW makes it fun. Eighty percent of the products sold in store are fresh, either brought in that day or prepared directly in the store. As important as customer service and fresh food are to Stew Leonard’s, their humanitarianism is what sets them apart.
Stewie the Duck
On January 1, 1989, a 21-month old toddler lost his life in a drowning accident. This sparked his parents to pledge that they would do everything in their power to prevent this tragedy from striking other families, since drowning is the leading cause of accidental death in children under five. In 1990, that toddler's parents, Kim and Stew Leonard, founded the Stew Leonard III Water Safety Foundation in memory of their son.
A few of Stew Leonard III Water Safety Foundation's Tips include: PUT DOWN YOUR PHONE & DESIGNATE A WATER WATCHER. Drowning is silent and usually occurs with no splashing and it only takes a few seconds (the time it takes to send a short text).
Stew Leonard III Water Safety Foundation has granted over 250,000 Swim Lessons and works with the American Red Cross, YMCAs and other partners to grant underprivileged children FREE swim lessons or lessons for under $10. Children who take swimming lessons are 88% less likely to drown.
The Foundation has also partnered with fire departments across the United States to implement the Stewie the Duck Drowning Prevention Program.
Their mascot, Stewie the Duck, joins firefighters as they read the "Stewie the Duck Learns to Swim" book to children in their respective school districts. In 2005, the city of Rialto suffered from 12 drowning incidents. As a result, firefighter, Matt Payne, introduced the Stewie the Duck Drowning Prevention Program to the Rialto school district. The following year it went down to just 2 drownings -- experiencing a 90% drowning reduction with the program. Since then, the Rialto Fire Department has read the "Stewie the Duck" book to roughly 20,000 children in the school district. Not one of the 20,000 children who have read the "Stewie the Duck" book has been involved in a drowning. “In prevention we normally don’t get to see the lives that we effected. We normally just see the ones that we missed. With Stewie the Duck we know of 20,000 success stories so far,” said Payne.
Kim and Stew Leonard Jr., wrote the Stewie the Duck Learns to Swim book which is a child interactive guide to water safety for 2-6 year olds. This book received the National Water Safety Youth Education Award from the National Water Safety Congress. All proceeds from the purchase of this book go towards water safety awareness and education, and over 225,00 books have been sold. The book has been read all over the world by volunteer partners and there have been over 65,000 mobile app downloads. The books have been purchased by water safety groups in every state and also in Canada, the Caribbean, Australia, Japan and China.
Stew’s Green Team & Stew Cares
Every Stew Leonard’s grocery store has a “Green Team” dedicated to making Stew Leonard’s a more eco-friendly place to work and shop. Since 2007, Stew’s Green Team has reduced the amount of garbage sent to landfills by 39% and recycled more than 366 tons of plastic. Stew’s also gives away coffee grinds to customers for composting and gardening, donates day-old baked goods to local charities, and donates unsaleable produce to local farmers to help feed their animals. Every store has a Wishing Well where money accumulated is dispersed the following month to the designated charity while donations, in the form of a Stew Leonard’s gift card, are given to local 501 (c)(3) organizations.
Stew’s Tank…Take a Bite Out Of It!
Both Paul Newman and Jon Bon Jovi chose Stew Leonard’s to market their products. Newman was giving his salad dressings as gifts to family and friends but decided to come to Stew Leonard, Sr. to sell his Newman’s Own to the public. Leonard convinced Newman to put a picture of his face on the jar, and the rest is history! Legendary rocker Bon Jovi promoted his new line of rosé wine that he developed with his son at Stew Leonard’s Wines & Spirits in Farmingdale, N.Y..
Stew Leonard’s also believes in giving local entrepreneurs an opportunity to market their food creations. In April of 2019, Stew Leonard’s launched their Stew’s Tank competition to uncover “the next big thing” in food. New York-based vendors submitted video applications to Stew Leonard’s and selected vendors met with Stew Leonard’s Buying Team for a sales presentation. There were over 150 entries including two young boys hyping their grandmother’s meatballs.
The Stew Leonard’s Buying Team then chose 13 vendors as finalists and invited them to demo their products at the Stew Leonard’s store in East Meadow, NY. Some of the vendors included: Bacaro Original Foods Eggplant Meatballs, Brooklyn Crafted Ginger Beer, Halesite Habanero Hot Sauce, and The Famous Meatballers submitted by Joe Chiodi, a New York City firefighter at Engine 262, who blends USDA ground beef with a secret recipe of fresh ingredients that is inspired by his mother-in-law’s original homemade meatball creation.
In July, a blue-ribbon panel of judges – including Stew Leonard’s CEO Stew Leonard Jr. – will consider each product’s sales, social media buzz, customer feedback, and results from an online voting component. The panel will then select five to seven winning products that will be sold on a permanent basis at Stew Leonard’s six farm fresh food stores.
My interview came to a happy ending when the executive chef asked me to taste test an all natural New England Clam Chowder and a Chicken Noodle Soup he had discovered at the International Deli Dairy Bakery Association Show in Orlando. After careful consideration and several tastings, I made my choices. I can’t wait to see if my favorite actually appears on the shelf!