When Will Stew Leonard's Open A Fourth CT Store?

NORWALK, CT — Stew Leonard’s, the “world’s largest dairy store” with a long-standing flagship location at 100 Westport Avenue in Norwalk, broke ground on its newest store in Clifton, N.J., earlier this month.

Once completed, the New Jersey store will mark the family-run chain’s eight location overall and its second in the state, which includes a store in Paramus. Stew Leonard’s also operates a number of stores in New York, with locations in East Meadow, Farmingdale and Yonkers.

In addition to the Norwalk store, which dates back to 1969, Stew’s has Connecticut locations in Danbury and Newington. Those two stores opened in 1991 and 2007, respectively, which means it has been over 15 years since the company opened a new grocery store in Connecticut.

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The store’s last public attempt to open a Connecticut store revolved around a planned location at 161 Marsh Hill Road in Orange. The Stew Leonard’s team tried to get the Orange store approved for nearly 15 years, but the effort was ultimately thwarted by a group of concerned residents who filed various legal motions that kept the store’s future tied up in the courts.

At one point, it seemed Stew Leonard’s might claim victory after winning town approval and a court decision, however a last-minute appeal granted to residents opposing the project derailed the plans once again.

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After legal fees began to mount, the Leonard family turned their attention to expanding outside of Connecticut, building stores in New York and later New Jersey. Since then, no plans for a fourth Connecticut store have been announced.

According to Meghan Bell, a store spokesperson, Stew Leonard’s receives quite a bit of interest from property developers and shopping centers in Connecticut about the possibility of opening another one of their “farm fresh food” stores.

Currently, the Leonard family is not actively looking for a new site to build a fourth Connecticut store, however they are still open to the idea, according to Bell.

“While the Leonard family is not actively looking for a new site here in Connecticut,” Bell said in an email to Patch, “if the right opportunity presented itself, bearing in mind things like a great location, population around the site and even parking, I’m sure they’d consider it.”

While Bell could not speculate if the owners, should an opportunity present itself in the future, would open a new store close to one of its existing Connecticut locations, she said the Leonard family would likely discuss any great location that became available as a family and see if it made sense for their business.

Mayor Harry Rilling said Stew Leonard’s has been a staple in Norwalk since opening its flagship store over 50 years ago and has become an integral part of the community.

“More than just a grocery store…the company’s family-friendly, customer-first business model fits in so well with the city of Norwalk because we are a community that looks out for one another and values kindness and compassion,” Rilling said in a statement sent to Patch. “Stew Leonard’s grocery store has also created employment for thousands of Norwalk residents since it opened, allowing families to live and work in the community they love, a vision we strive for in the city of Norwalk. Any community would be fortunate to have a Stew Leonard’s in their town.”

Similarly, Greater Norwalk Chamber President Brian Griffin said Stew Leonard’s is one of the best brands and businesses to come out of Norwalk.

“As they continue to expand into other states, it is also encouraging to hear that they plan on expanding within Connecticut as well,” Griffin said. “Stew Leonard’s has been an integral part of our community for decades and certainly a good thing to ‘spread the joy’ of Stew Leonard’s.”

Griffin is also noted he was “looking forward to the new look at the Norwalk store,” which is in the midst of a major renovation project.

Plans for the Norwalk store’s expansion were first announced in summer 2021, and work has been moving along steadily since then. After working extensively on parts of the store’s exterior last year, work inside the store began in January.

In March, the store unveiled its new expanded garden center. Recently, work on a new farmer’s market at the building’s entrance could be seen taking place as the store opened its elaborate Halloween-themed pumpkin patch display.

Nicole Weiss, the Norwalk store’s vice president, told Patch earlier this month the Leonard family hopes to have the new farmer’s market open in time for the holiday season.

While no plans have been officially announced for a brand new store in Connecticut, it is encouraging to see the company investing heavily in upgrades to its original location. Perhaps it is only a matter of time before the Leonard family decides to build another store in the state where it all started.

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