Founder Of Stew Leonard's Dies At 93, Leaving $600 Million Legacy, Including Danbury Store

The creator of "one of the most famous food retailers in the world" died at 93 years old, leaving a world-record-breaking grocery store chain to his family. 

Stew Leonard Sr.
Stew Leonard Sr. Photo Credit: Stew Leonard's

Stew Leonard Sr., of Westport, Connecticut, died on Wednesday, April 26 at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City after a brief illness, according to Stew Leonard's website. 

Leonard launched the first Stew Leonard's in Norwalk, Connecticut in December 1969. 

The successful grocery store chain has seven locations in Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey, including in Norwalk and Danbury in Fairfield County, Newington in Hartford County, East Meadow and Farmingdale on Long Island, Yonkers in Westchester, and Paramus in Bergen County.

His original shop was named the “World’s Largest Dairy Store” by Ripley’s Believe It or Not and earned a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records for having the highest dollar sales per square foot of selling space.

One of his favorite hobbies was standing at Stew Leonard’s front door to greet customers and often called them by name. 

"He loved giving back to the community and had a giving heart," his obituary reads. 

Leonard also attended Norwalk High School and the University of Connecticut’s School of Agriculture. He is survived by his wife of 70 years, Marianne Guthman Leonard, their four children, Stew Junior, Tom, Beth Hollis, and Jill Tavello, and 13 grandchildren. 

Leonard's family will continue to run the company he founded, which is now a $600 million business. His memorial service and burial will be private, and a celebration of life will be scheduled for a yet-to-be-announced date. 

Those wishing to donate in Leonard's memory can give to the Stew Leonard III Water Safety Foundation, a charity that helps to fund swimming lessons for children in need, in honor of his grandson who drowned in 1989. 

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