Farm-fresh food retailer Stew Leonard’s, nicknamed the “Disneyland of Dairy Stores,” will open its first Long Island grocery store this month in Farmingdale.
The 60,000-square-foot location in Kimco Realty Corp.’s Airport Plaza shopping center will open Jan. 20 at 8 a.m. The supermarket, located across from Stew Leonard’s Wines of Farmingdale, will be the chain’s fifth grocery store. About 100,000 visitors a week are expected at the new store.
“We are looking for the Long Island store to be one of our best,” Stew Leonard Jr., president and chief executive of the family-owned and -operated company, said during a tour of the store Wednesday.
Stew Leonard’s, recognized as the world’s largest dairy store by Ripley’s Believe It or Not!, broke ground in April on the Farmingdale store. The location was formerly occupied by restaurant and entertainment business Dave & Buster’s.
Stew Leonard’s was founded as a dairy store in 1969 in Norwalk, Connecticut, and has grown to become a nearly $400 million-a-year enterprise with about 2,500 employees. Its three other locations are in Danbury and Newington, Connecticut, and in Yonkers.
“I have been a part of this my whole life,” said Leonard, 61, who has been working in the family business for more than 40 years.
Stew Leonard’s is known for its farm-fresh milk, which comes from 3,000 cows on a family-owned farm in Ellington, Connecticut. Each store carries 2,200 items, including private label products, and has a bakery, butcher shop, seafood department, and hot and cold buffet. The stores source many products from farms, vineyards and vendors in the Northeast and the Midwest.
“We are excited about when the local farms out here on Long Island start to fire themselves up in the spring,” Leonard said. “We will be buying a lot locally.”
The chain is also known for its country-fair atmosphere, with costumed characters and animated entertainment, such as robotic cows and vegetables, throughout the stores to keep children entertained while parents shop.
“We want to make it a fun family place to come. It is almost like a festival,” Leonard said. “We don’t have a traditional layout like all the other grocery stores. It is a big one-way aisle. It ... snakes through the whole store.”
The Farmingdale store will employ 400 people. The nonunion company, listed for 10 years in a row on Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For, is still looking to fill about 50 positions, mostly part-time. It will hold a job fair Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Applicants must first apply online at stewleonards.com.
Stew Leonard’s has been trying to open a store on Long Island since 2002. The company sought to build a 150,000-square-foot grocery store at the intersection of Route 110 and Conklin Street, across the street from Republic Airport in Farmingdale. But the plans eventually fell through after objections by local aviation officials, pilots and the state Department of Transportation, which said the location would put shoppers perilously close to the airport’s main flight path.