Stew Leonard, Sr., founder of one of the most famous food retailers in the world, Stew Leonard’s, passed away on April 26, 2023 at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City after a brief illness. Mr. Leonard, of Westport, CT, was born in Norwalk, CT., on December 1, 1929. He is survived by his wife of 70 years, Marianne Guthman Leonard, and their four children. Mr. Leonard also leaves behind 13 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren. To read the full obituary, please click here.
A graduate of Norwalk High School and of the University of Connecticut’s School of Agriculture, Stew first worked for his family’s dairy business at Clover Farms Dairy in Norwalk. It was a state-of-the-art dairy by the standards of the time with a pasteurizing and bottling plant, and fresh milk delivered daily by trucks that had plastic cows on the front that “mooed” for the neighborhood children. In the late 1960s, Stew realized the milk delivery business was going the way of the iceman. His dream was to build a retail dairy store where children could watch milk being bottled, while parents did their shopping in a farmer’s market atmosphere.
In December 1969, Stew Leonard’s opened its doors—a 17,000 square foot store carrying just eight items. The dairy store Stew founded in Norwalk not only became the “World’s Largest Dairy store” according to Ripley’s Believe It or Not, but also earned a place in the Guinness Book of World Records for having the highest dollar sales per square foot of selling space.
Today, Stew Leonard’s has become a $600 million family owned and operated business with seven farm fresh food store locations and more than 2,500 Team Members. It was also named as one of FORTUNE magazine’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” for ten years in a row. The company is run by Stew’s son, Stew Leonard, Jr. with help from his siblings Tom Leonard, Beth Leonard Hollis, and Jill Leonard Tavello. Five of his grandchildren have also joined the business.
The memorial service and burial will be private, and a celebration of life will be announced at a later date. Donations in Stew’s memory may be made to the Stew Leonard III Water Safety Foundation, a 501C3 charity which helps to fund swimming lessons for children in need, in honor of his grandson who drowned in 1989.