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What Happens When A Small-Town Family Visits The "World's Largest"... Whatever!

World’s Largest Dairy Store, CT and NY

Okay, here’s my attempt at blogging with a cold. We feed, clothe, and house two Petri dishes, and they re-pay us with post nasal drip.

Stew Leonard's

We hang at the Danbury location.

Where we went, and who was coerced into going:

I don’t know anyone who actually enjoys grocery shopping, especially with kids in tow. Things are different when we go to Stew Leonard’s, the world’s largest dairy store. There are four locations in CT and NY, and we usually end up in Danbury. I get no arguments from anyone when I announce, “We’re going to Stew’s!”

WHY did you go there, exactly?

Granted, a grocery store is not necessarily a travel destination. But if you’re driving near their Danbury or Norwalk locations during the warmer months, you can stop in for a little diversion, and eat outside at their “hoedown,” which offers grilled cheeseburgers, chicken, hot dogs, as well as steak sandwiches, lobster and fries.

Stew Leonard’s is in the 1990 Guinness Book of World Records for having the “largest sales per square foot for a single grocery: $115 million in sales, $3,470 per square foot.”  The “World’s Largest Dairy Store” title came from Ripley’s Believe It or Not.  Regardless, the offerings go way beyond dairy. The bakery, deli, and meat department are also stand outs, and the prepared foods make a lazy cook out of me.

If a trip to Stew’s is in the forecast, I ditch the weekly meal plan like a hot potato. Yes, I’ve recently attempted to plan dinners a week in advance. Because I like to pretend I’m organized and in control. Until 4:00 comes around, nothing is defrosted, and the cereal boxes start calling my name.

Okay, what was so cool about it?

Stew Leonard's Cow

Girl: “Don’t pull the rope!” Boy: “I’m pulling the rope…” Cow: MOOOO!!! Girl: “AAAAAACK!”

Stew’s strategically elevates the supermarket to quality entertainment. The largest elements of this are the animatronic animals, food, and other characters. Push a big red button, and Twinky the Kid pops out of a box and says “Hi” with a friendly twang. The Farm Fresh Five dairy band jams over the frozen food cases, mesmerizing the kids while I peruse the nugget selection. There’s a parrot, chicken, donkey, bears, and a pine tree all ready to greet you.

And then, there’s Clover the Cow. The Boy, at ten years of age, has just recently gotten over his fear of her loud, deep “moo,” initiated with a yank of her rope. The Girl will still shake and plead “No cow!” when we pass near her sweet face. Both would much rather stand in front of Chiquita Banana, shimmying and singing along with her.

Do you know the words to the Chiquita ditty? I thought these might help, because once you watch this video, you’ll by humming the tune all day. Curiously, the official lyrics are not the ones sung by this big banana.

Whoever designed the store layout was a genius. Instead of straight aisles, there’s a winding path through each department, with occasional cut-throughs. You’re forced to pass by every single item sold at Stew’s. Not that you’ll mind. The quality is above par, and the prices are reasonable. Frequent free sample stations of both hot and cold foods lessen the burden considerably!

Farm Fresh Five

“Slim Skim” is secretly jealous of “Rich Milk,” who gets to sing lead. The cookies are just throwing themselves at him.

Outside the Danbury and Yonkers locations, there are small walk-through zoos with farm animals on display. Luckily, it’s not a petting zoo, so I don’t have to worry about strapping on the gallon of antibacterial hand sanitizer. Yes, I’m a sanitizing parent. Obviously, it doesn’t always work – see intro. This OCD quirk runs in the family. My brother carries enough wipes on his person to obliterate the microbe population of Texas.

A little background info about the place:

Stew Leonard’s opened its doors in December 1969 as a 17,000-square foot store carrying just eight items. Unlike traditional grocery stores that sell an average 30,000 items, Stew Leonard’s stores now carry only 2,000 items. Stew Leonard’s was dubbed the “Disneyland of Dairy Stores” by the New York Times, because of its own milk processing plant, costumed characters, scheduled entertainment, petting zoo and animatronics throughout the stores. Over 13 million customers shop at Stew’s every year.

How it rated on a scale of 1 to 10 (1 = snoozefest, 10 = add to your bucket list):

8.  Stew Leonard’s rocks! Sadly, they don’t sell Mucinex, and so, I bid you adieu.

Hey you! Go BIG!:

Stew Leonard’s Locations:

99 Federal Road, Danbury, CT, 06811. (203) 790-8030

100 Westport Avenue, Norwalk, CT 06851. (203) 847-7214

3475 Berlin Turnpike, Newington, CT 06111. (860) 760-8100

1 Stew Leonard Drive, Yonkers, NY 10710. (914) 375-4700

Stew Leonards

Bears on banjos beguile you while you buy bologna

Twinkies

“Hi! I’m Twinkie the Ki - id!” (Southern drawl = two syllables)

Danbury Romantic Vacation on raveable

4 comments

  1. Mary McFeeley Lavado said,
    November 12, 2010 @ 9:34 am

    Wow, Tracy, I was just at the Danbury store this week! I spent my college years at WestConn, so patronized Stew’s many times. Not wild about the Newington store. Lots of memories of my Erin as a toddler giggling in delight at all the characters. Thanks for the memories!

  2. Mike said,
    November 12, 2010 @ 11:02 am

    I LOVED this place! Thanks for the post. I can’t wait to take the kids back for another visit. The connotation in the reference to your brother seems to imply he is neurotic, but he just seems practical and wise. We live in an anti-microbe world.

    • Margaret M said,
      November 12, 2010 @ 11:31 am

      Is this comment from Mike, the brother?! In any event, I do agree, the brother is practical and wise….

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