DANBURY, Conn. — Stew Leonard's yesterday celebrated the 25th anniversary of its store here, the second of four stores that have attracted international attention for their merchandising innovations.
The original location, opened by founder Stew Leonard in Norwalk, Conn., in 1969, became a destination location in Southwestern Connecticut, known for its fresh foods; milk made on the premises; animatronic characters; single, serpentine aisle featuring all of the store’s products; and outside petting farm.
In 1986, Stew’s son Tom Leonard and nephew Dan Arthur began selling Christmas trees under a tent on Federal Rd. in Danbury, eventually adding produce and other products. The current 130,000-square-foot store opened in 1991. The company opened a store in Yonkers, N.Y., in 1999 and one in Newington, Conn., in 2007.
"They're one of our major employers," said Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton after a ceremony in which he proclaimed Oct. 5 as Stew Leonard's Day in the city. "If you have a cause, at some point Stew Leonard's is involved in some way, shape or form."
Though the Danbury store has many of the features of the Norwalk location, Stew Leonard Jr., president and chief executive officer, said it also caters to local ethnic groups, including Brazilian and Lebanese populations. "The customers are different in Danbury and the food they like is different," he noted.
Leonard said the company is looking into opening a store on Long Island, N.Y., though he declined to provide a timetable. A previous attempt to open a store in Farmingdale, N.Y., fell through. "We don’t want to grow fast but we want to keep the momentum going," he said.