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NORWALK, Conn. -- Stew Leonard's newest store is set to open in a former Caldor plaza in Newington, Conn., about 10 miles from the state capital, Hartford, in mid-April. The 113,000-square-foot store was originally scheduled to open in late February, but the site's $19 million overhaul hit unforeseen snags, among them the removal of concrete floors and two concrete walls.
The project in an existing footplant was a first for the company, whose other three stores were constructed from the ground up.
"The renovations were a lot more extensive than we originally thought,'' Doug Hempstead, v.p., property development for Stew Leonard's told the Stamford, Conn. Advocate. "We pretty much gutted the place.''
The new store will boast the other locations' trademark exterior barn design. Although it won't be the largest store in the chain (that distinction goes to the Danbury, Conn. location, at 130,000 square feet), it'll have the most selling space, measuring an additional 3,000 square feet thanks to a smaller warehouse. Also, an outdoor garden center will take up another 10,000 square feet.
Standout features of the Newington location will include the most animatronics, among them such newcomers as Miss Diva Cheese, described by director of advertising Rich Lung as "the soulful princess of provolone in the Stew Leonard's deli department,'' who sings to kids about the advantages of cheese in their diet.
The store will also be the first to offer a food court, located on the second-floor mezzanine, and the site will house a Stew Leonard's wine shop, pending state approval.
Four hundred Stew Leonard's "team members,'' 65 percent of them full-time, are expected to work at the new store.
Stew Leonard's, which operates locations in Norwalk, Danbury, Conn., and Yonkers, N.Y., is also planning to open stores in Orange, Conn. and East Farmingdale, N.Y.