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Stew Leonard’s, the “world’s largest dairy store” that has three stores and generates some $300 million a year in sales, is in negotiations for property that would allow it to open a fourth store on Long Island, New York, in early 2004.

In advance of the new store, there is currently a Stew Leonard’s Wine Shop operating in Farmingdale, NY,, near the probable site of the soon-to-be-built unit.

For legal reasons, the wine shop in Farmingdale is not actually owned by the retailing entity, but rather by Stew Leonard, Jr. The company’s wine shop adjacent to its Yonkers, NY, store is owned by Beth Leonard Hollis, daughter of the company founder and sister to Stew Jr. as explained by Newsday, “the Connecticut entrepreneur has skirted state laws barring chain ownership of liquor stores by taking personal ownership of the store, which has the corporate name Vineyards of Farmingdale LLC.” A company spokesman said that the Farmingdale store has a separate buying operation from the other wine shops in the chain.

In addition to Yonkers, the company operates retailing stores in Danbury, Connecticut, and Norwalk, Connecticut, the original location. Unlike most supermarkets, Stew Leonard’s only carries about 1,000 SKUs, many of them perishables and private label, and features a directed traffic flow that is heavy on entertainment values.

This year, Stew Leonard’s ranked # 22 on Fortune magazine’s list of the top 100 places to work in the US.
KC's View:
Legal technicalities aside, opening up a wine shop to raise the flag for the company well in advance of its store opening in Farmingdale makes a lot of sense. If Stew Leonard’s runs true to form, it’ll also open up some sort of garden center there sometime next summer, maybe sell Christmas trees during the 2003 holiday season, and get that community and nearby consumers whipped into a total frenzy for the 2004 opening.

This retailer doesn’t play defense. It’s all offense…and in this market, that’s the only game in town.

The other benefit will accrue to local wine drinkers, who will get the benefits of a first class liquor operation.