Here are some need-to-know facts and pieces of history from Stew Leonard's, the "Disneyland of Dairy Stores."
Stew Leonard's history
Stew Leonard's was founded in 1969 in Norwalk, Conn., with seven employees, and has since grown to become the "World's Largest Dairy Store," according to the company website. Currently, the company has more than 2,000 employees with $341 million in revenue, and has locations in Danbury, Conn., Newington, Conn., and Yonkers, NY., and the Farmingdale location is the fifth. A sixth location for the company is on its way and will be located on Long Island in East Meadow.
Farm fresh foods
The company gained a cult-like following on par with Trader Joe's thanks to its limited locations and massive selections. Each store is designed so you must walk through the entire place via winding paths, rather than multiple aisles found in traditional grocery stores.
Animatronic animals and groceries
Stew Leonard's got its "Disneyland of Dairy Stores" title from the New York Times for the company's large, singing robotic characters throughout the store, designed from educational practices of visual, auditory and kinesthetic learning.
Farm and animal roots
Stew Leonard's prides itself on its farm and family roots to the point where locations have actual farm animals and petting zoos, as well as outdoor cafes.
The company's founding principles can be found etched on a 3-ton granite rock at each store location.
The company hasn't been without its controversies. In 1993, founder Stew Leonard Sr. was convicted of committing tax fraud by diverting more than $17 million in cash register receipts over a 10-year period. He was subsequently sentenced to 52 months in jail. Pictured: Current president and CEO Stew Leonard Jr. who took over in 1987.
Guinness world record holder
Not only does Stew Leonard's hold the title of the world's largest dairy store, but the company also is in the Guinness Book of World Records for "the greatest sales per unit area of any single food store in the United States."
Like Costco, Stew Leonard's is known for its notoriously upbeat and pleasing work environment, and has been one of Fortune magazine's "Top 100 Businesses to Work For" for 10 years in a row.
According to the company, each store carries only 2,000 items chosen specifically for freshness, unlike other grocery stores that sell an average of 30,000 items.
Despite growing over the years, the company remains largely a family operation. Along with Stew Leonard Jr. the current president and CEO, Tom, another son, opened the second location in 1991; daughter Beth Leonard founded the Bethy's Bakery and gift center in the stores; and daughter Jill Leonard serves as Vice President of Culture and Communication.