Trips to the supermarket are often a frenetic rush to pile every conceivable item into a cart in one shopping mission—all while making the absolute minimum in eye contact.
That’s the shopping experience most Long Islanders face daily. That is, until Stew Leonard’s opened its doors on the Island, first in Farmingdale in 2015 and last summer at the newest store in East Meadow. This is not the place to get all of the items on your list—it is the place to get a handful of specialty needs, while allowing the store to entice you to buy a loaf of fresh cinnamon swirl bread, a jar of local honey, a few dozen sticky-sweet donuts or a rack of St. Louis-style ribs.
And on a recent tour of the East Meadow location, all of it—the bright colors of the produce, the aroma of hearth-baked bread, the singing of the butchers as they sliced meat and, yes, the clamor of the animatronic farm animals, dairy products and avocados—all coalesced into a shopping adventure that was most certainly a cow of a different color.
The store’s one-way aisle leads customers through the open-concept floor plan, with views of all the different team members at work. Rather than overwhelm the senses with tens of thousands of items, Stew Leonard’s keeps its shelves stocked at a tight 2,200 items at the 70,000-square foot East Meadow location, with a focus on freshness, quality and value.
This means only a handful of cereals to choose from or a fraction of the amount of sodas one might expect—but those items are not what drives the tractor at Stew Leonard’s. Eighty percent of the products sold in store are fresh—that is, brought in daily or prepared directly in-store by the close-knit employees who stock produce, supply fresh dairy, bake bread, butcher meat, pull fresh mozzarella, prepare restaurant-quality food and deliver a generally gregarious and specifically knowledgeable attitude.
Be sure to check out Stew Leonard’s Naked brand line, which includes beef, chicken, seafood and selected Naked Grass-Fed meat products—it’s the store’s way of providing customers with high-quality, yet affordable options that contain no antibiotics, added hormones or preservatives, and are also raised and harvested humanely.
Stew Leonard’s also has a charitable streak, with Stew’s Wishing Well waiting for customers to hit the bullseye with coins, all of which are donated to a local charity of the month.
It’s an approach to grocery that germinated with the first Stew Leonard’s in Norwalk, CT—a 17,000-square foot store that carried a mere eight items when it opened in 1969. Those small-scale industry ideals stuck through generations of Leonard’s, with sons and daughters following the mantra etched into a three-town granite rock placed at the entrance of each store—the message that reads, “Rule no. 1—The Customer is Always Right;” Rule no. 2—If the Customer is Ever Wrong, Re-Read Rule no. 1.”
Stew Leonard’s East Meadow is located at 1897 Front St. Regular store hours are Monday through Sunday, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. The store can be reached directly at 516-394-9001 or by visiting www.stewleonards.com.
For a taste of Stew Leonard’s restaurant-quality prepared foods, see Eat At Stew’s