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The Danbury Times takes note of the fact that Stew Leonard’s - the iconic fresh food store that has built a $400 million-plus business out of four limited assortment fresh food stores and eight wine stores - turns 40 next Tuesday.

Stew Leonard Jr. tells the paper that one of the reasons that the company has been so successful has been a no-layoff policy. "In 40 years, we haven't had to lay anybody off. There are a lot of people here celebrating 30 years with us. A lot of young families have built careers around Stew Leonard's,” he says.

In addition, the story notes, the company has had to get past the tax evasion conviction of founder Stew leonard Sr. in 1993, which cast a shadow on what until then had been one of the great American entrepreneurial stories. But the fact is that Stew Leonard’s has not only survived the scandal, but transcended it; today, the company is larger and more successful than it was 15 years ago, and it continues to look for ways to expand and offer new opportunities not just to employees, but to a third-generation of family members.
KC's View:
My interest in Stew Leonard’s success is more than merely professional. I’ve been shopping there almost weekly for the last quarter-century. (I once figured it out, and estimated that in that time I’ve spent in excess of $200,000 there in that period of time.)

So I must like it.

More importantly, I don’t think it an exaggeration to suggest that in many ways my kids grew up going to Stew Leonard’s. I can still remember the time more than 23 years ago when I walked into Stew’s early on a Saturday morning in early September with my first-born son, who was then just two weeks old. My wife was home asleep (she wasn’t yet Mrs. Content Guy, because MNB wasn’t even a gleam in my eye - I don’t even think I owned a computer!) and I’d decided to take my son shopping.

We walked in the front door, into the bakery, and an employee named Dodie came over to see the baby...and from that time on, we were connected to Dodie until she retired a few years ago. For all of my kids, she was Stew Leonard’s...there was a personal connection that you simply don’t get in most stores. Sure, there were samples and great smells and a zoo and animatronic animals to keep them entertained. But Dodie was most important. And that’s the legacy of which the Leonard family should be most proud.

So, Tuesday will be a big day for them.

But you know what’s a bigger day? Wednesday. Because they have to earn and re-earn their reputation every day. Each new day of business brings with it the opportunity to be better, and the challenge never to get complacent.

And it may get tougher for Stew’s. There’s a new Fresh Market a couple of miles up the road. A new Fairway is going in a few miles down the road. And as reported here yesterday, Wegmans seems to have its corporate eye on Connecticut.

Which is at least part of the reason, I’m sure, that they’ve done a lot of remodeling of the original Norwalk store, upgrading the physical facility and adding goods and services.

If you want to see how Stew Leonard’s is going to compete in the future, forget about Tuesday’s celebration. Watch what they do on Wednesday. And Thursday. And Friday. And so on.