Today we braved the new Stew Leonard’s grocery store in Farmingdale, New York. The Stew Leonard’s wines store is known for it’s attractive displays and excellent stock, so when we saw that the company would be opening it’s first grocery store on Long Island, we were intrigued.
The grand opening was last weekend, however we got nearly 2 feet of snow in some places, so I’m going to assume that things were pretty slow. Our first inkling that today’s visit was going to be an adventure was the absolutely packed parking lot. The lot was fairly well cleared, but with mounds of snow in some places, it was still a little messy. My husband and I laughed about the cars that looked abandoned around one of these mounds, haphazardly pulled in roughly parallel to the snowy mess.
We grabbed Little Miss and met my parents inside with nervous snickers, as I settled my squirmy toddler into the cart my mother was pushing. The first thing we saw upon entering was animal robots singing and playing musical instruments, though it was difficult to focus on that with the overwhelming smell of fresh apple cider donuts from the stand directly in front of the entrance. Right up front was an avocado display, with a sign proclaiming “4 days to ripe”. How can they guarantee that, I asked my dad, when avocados are notorious jerks? They start off hard as a rock and then go from ripe to rotten in an instant.
The store was packed. Straight up packed, with carts and people moving every which way to try to get around others. The produce section was like cattle being herded, just a slow shuffle through. The store is set up similar to IKEA, with a one way path meandering through the store. Even though everyone was moving in more or less the same direction, it was slow going.
The bakery section looked beautiful, though I wasn’t actually able to fight my way close enough to see much detail. I found in the produce department, as well as the rest of the store that prices were mixed – some were excellent, some nothing special, and some a little high. There was a nice selection of organic products throughout, which I appreciate very much.
Remember those robotic creatures I mentioned? They’re all over. There are singing chickens by the eggs, a singing Chiquita banana in the produce section and stuffed animals literally “flipping” in the air in several departments. There are buttons that children are encouraged to press that will make an otherwise dormant creature wake up and sing.
It would be difficult to recount everything in the store from this one visit, as the store was a bit of a madhouse. There is a sizable meat section and fish counter, a glorious cheese section where fresh mozzarella is made from scratch, a 7 foot provolone was on display, and an artist was carving a huge hunk of cheese and handing out samples. The olive bar was exceptional in it’s selection, and while I didn’t get close, the wall of pizza ovens certainly caught my attention. There was an impressive per-pound buffet of prepared food similar to ones I’ve seen at Whole Foods which I will check out in more detail another time. It was a lot to take in, but the store had a lot to offer including an attractive set up and fun atmosphere.
I don’t think I’ll be visiting on a weekend anytime soon, but once the initial rush dies down I suspect I’ll be visiting with Little Miss on quiet weekdays when we can explore all the offerings at a more leisurely pace. It was difficult to really shop in such a crush of people, and I really hate crowds. Since moving east, I’ve been missing my regular runs to Trader Joe’s, and I have a feeling that Stew Leonard’s can fill much of that void.
Oh, and with a single receipt totaling $100 or more, shoppers are entitled to a free ice cream cone or cup of coffee. That’s pretty fun!
If you’re local and interested, you can learn more about the store at stewleonards.com/farmingdale. I snapped some pictures as we walked through, which I have cropped as best I can to remove unsuspecting shoppers. Just trust me, there were a lot of people in that store.
Have you checked out the new Stew Leonard’s yet? What do you think?