On a recent trip to Stew Leonard’s Newington, CT store, the inspiration struck to let readers know what all the fuss is about. The store is located at 3475 Berlin Turnpike, Newington, CT 06111 with other locations currently being the original Norwalk, CT store, Danbury, CT and Yonkers, NY.
For the uninitiated, Stew’s is a not your average grocery store. It’s been called the ‘Disneyland of Dairy Stores’ by The New York Times, and rightly so. From the minute you walk into the spacious entry and encounter the Cow Cam spying on Stew’s cows on the Ellington, CT farm, this store makes grocery shopping FUN. Animatronics abound, tucked into spots high and low, many with big buttons mounted within child’s reach marked ‘Press”. You can hear Chiquita Banana sing the iconic jingle perched above the banana display, cow’s mooing, and the Cuckoo clock in the amazing Bakery Department being a certain 5 year old shopping this day a personal favorite.
In addition to the entertainment value for the kiddies (and in some cases, Daddy’s and Grandpa’s, too) they boast other distinctions as well. Stew Leonard’s is in the Guinness Book of World Records for having ‘the greatest sales per unit area of any single food store in the United States.’ It’s been listed as one of Fortune Magazine’s top 100 businesses to work for ten years in a row. You routinely encounter helpful, happy employees so it would appear they have a great Human Resources formula here.
This store stocks the basics without trying to be everything to all like the typical grocery store. No toothpaste or makeup, vitamins or office supplies. Not a huge variety, just a good solid brand or two or three with competitive and often attractive pricing. Where Stew Leonard’s really excels is obvious; The Produce department is a cornucopia and includes surprises like a nice selection of fresh herbs, beautiful bulbs of fennel, basic (and occasionally not so basic) greens, fruits and veggies and on this trip, fresh figs that made a delicious Gorgonzola, Fig and Pancetta Pizza found in Food & Wine Magazine. The Bakery has an above average variety of breads, rolls and desserts. The Naan are particularly good as are the fresh rice cakes. The Meat department is beautiful. Fresh, nicely cut and packaged for two servings or a family, you won’t be disappointed. Helpful butchers make this department a particular joy if you’re used to most of the mega-supermarkets lack thereof. Seafood is another good bet with a big turnover ensuring great quality at a good price. This week’s specialsincluded lobster at $4.99/lb and although soft-shells, were super fresh and lively and made a superb dinner surprise for hubby.
There are many reasons to visit Stew Leonard’s not listed here, just one of which is the Wine Shop, but that will be another article.
The Tips to Remember:
Go at off hours; the winding path set up can be daunting until you learn the short cuts. Compounded by the crowds it can take a lot of time to get through the store.
Don’t expect to get everything on the family grocery list for the week.
Participate in the tastings. They’re set up all over the store and the samples are generous and taste even better at home! The fresh mozzarella is superb.
Hot to Go is reasonable and a good variety.
Dairy is a mix of Stew’s and national brands. Stews are quality, fresh and inexpensive.
Regular Store Hours are Sunday – Thursday 8am-9pm, Friday – Saturday 8am-10pm and (Closed Dec 25th)