There is a new market in town. Stew Leonard’s — a family owned grocery store chain that boasts more than 80 percent fresh products — is opening in Farmingdale on Wednesday, January 20. To commemorate the opening, celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse will sign copies of his book, Essential Emeril, at the new location on January 23 from noon – 2 p.m.
“This is a 10-year dream,” says Stew Leonard. The chain planned to open a grocery story at the same time Leornard’s son, Stew Leonard Jr., opened a wine story also in Farmingdale, in 2002. Complications with the town put that on hold.
“The most asked question [at the wine store] is when are you going to open the food store,” says Leonard. “The second most asked question was ‘What wine do you eat with steak?’”
Instead of featuring 30,000 – 60,000 items like the typical grocery store, each Stew Leonard’s only carries 2,200 items, with a focus on fresh, quality goods for a low price. Leonard recalls his grandfather — the founder of the grocery store chain — picking up milk from local farms and says he has never known anything but farm-to-table.
“People love local foods,” says Leonard. “We have some really good contacts on Long Island.” The chain is a member of the Long Island Farm Bureau, which helps. “We are a family business and we like to deal with family farms,” he adds.
Although much of the store will mirror other Stew Leonard’s locations in Connecticut and New York, the Farmingdale location will feature a concrete “cool” floor, rather than the typical brick. They also plan to do “a lot more show and tell.” Expect to see butchers cutting meat and bakers taking bread out of the oven. The store will also have an in-house kitchen where a culinary team will prepare a variety of hot foods for the buffet bar and refrigerated meals-to-go. Leonard says that customers are increasingly interested in purchasing fully-prepared meals.
The supermarket is also working to eliminate additives. Their latest project was to remove red dye from their Christmas cupcakes; they used cherry juice instead.
Although it’s difficult for produce to be local during the winter, Leonard says all the chicken, pork and eggs will be sourced within a proximity of the supermarket. All of the milk for the grocery store chain is sourced from a family-owned farm in Ellington, Connecticut, earning the chain the moniker the recognition as “The World’s Largest Dairy Store” by Ripley’s Believe It or Not.
Leonard says the supermarket chain’s reputation for fresh food is somewhat of a legacy. In the 1600s, his family owned a dairy farm and then baked bread for whaling ships in New York City. “That’s basically what we kept going,” he says.
The supermarket will open on 261 Airport Plaza Boulevard, on the same street as Stew Leonard’s Wines store in Farmingdale.