What do you get when you mash a little bit of Disney magic with grocery shopping? The answer for supermarket fans: Stew Leonard’s. If you’ve ever visited the stores in Yonkers, NY or Norwalk, CT, you know it’s packed with a huge grocery selection, but also fun animatronics to keep the kids (OK, and some grown-ups) entertained.
And we’re not kidding about the Disney inspiration. The store features an upside down cow inspired by the Disney Imagineers who helped add whimsical features to the stores.
Why It’s Special
Started as a dairy store in Norwalk in 1969, the family-operated chain has expanded since then, and will officially open its first New Jersey location on Wednesday. While NJ is peppered with Stew Leonard’s name in the form of wine and spirits stores, this new location is the first in the Garden State to sell groceries. The new store in Paramus Park mall will also replace the Route 17 Wine and Spirits store. Alongside your groceries, you’ll be able to choose from more than 1,600 wines, 800 spirits and 500 beers.
So what’s so special about Stew Leonard’s aside from its fun stuff for the kids, selfie spots for Instagram-worthy photos and a wide alcohol selection? The chain has been cited by the Guinness Book of World Records as the World’s Largest Dairy Store. The Leonards got their start in that business, and their milk is free of artificial growth hormones and antibiotics. The store uses farms in upstate NY dedicated to raising their own stock and growing their own foods.
Stew Leonard’s is also focused on procuring high-quality products in their deli, cheese bar and seafood sections. We toured the store two days before opening and sampled everything from frescatrano olives (which have a vibrant color and sweet, mild flavor) to fresh Jersey gravy (aka pasta sauce) and sashimi from the sushi bar. The butcher shop boasts grass fed products from Stew Leonard’s own antibiotic- and hormone-free Naked line of beef, chicken, ham and turkey. And the butchers, who will cut your meat for free, are trained in beef nutrition, animal welfare and environmental sustainability. The popular store is also known for its costumed characters and free food samples.
You’ll see a lot of Jersey products on the shelves, including fruits and veggies from Cichowski Farms in Somerset and Atlantic Blueberry Company in Hammonton, and local products like Jersey Italian Gravy, a homemade marinara sauce made minutes from Paramus, and Colavita Olive Oil, with headquarters in Edison. DIY TV and food icon Martha Stewart came to the store on Monday to congratulate the Leonards on their first NJ location. A native of Nutley herself, Stewart said the store should make a point of getting only tomatoes and blueberries grown in the Garden State. She also praised the Leonards for making “good use of an old store,” referring to the Sears building the supermarket took over.
The new store also features a coffee bar, ice cream shop, bakery (warm cookies and fresh bread are made in house daily) and a sushi bar. We’re psyched for Mrs. Leonard’s Kitchen, where customers can pick up more than 100 different foods to go (perfect for those nights you have zero time to cook!).
Stew Leonard’s Paramus is in the Paramus Park Mall at 700 Paramus Park in Paramus. The food store will be open Monday through Saturday from 8 am to 10 pm, and Sundays from 8 am to 9 pm.