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NORWALK, Conn. -- Stew Leonard's, the independent regional retailer known for its in-store theatrics and fresh, upscale selection, will open its fourth supermarket next year, marking its entrance into the Hartford, Conn. market.
The retailer decided to lease the location, which is in Newington, Conn. at the site of a former Caldor's store, in a matter of months after finding it, e.v.p. and c.f.o. Vince Summa told Progressive Grocer on Friday. "From the time we first saw the site to the time we signed the lease was less than 90 days."
Two other new store projects, meanwhile, in Orange, Conn. and East Farmingdale, N.Y., where it already owns property, have been temporarily put on hold, as Stew Leonard's retail use approvals go through an appeals process in court. "The resolution won't be announced until the summer," said spokeswoman Meghan Flynn.
The Newington Stew Leonard's store will go up on the site of a 112,800-square-foot former Caldor's store, approximately 10 miles outside Hartford, the state's capital. The store is slated to open in early 2007, after Stew Leonard's makes $15 million dollars in improvements, including:
-- Building an in-store, scratch bakery and state-of-the-art kitchens
-- Installing a specialty cheese aging room and prepared foods area with indoor seating
-- Installing a café complete with coffee roasted right in front of the customer
-- Installing an ice cream parlor serving freshly made soft-serve ice cream.
"We've always wanted to open a store in the Hartford area, but were never able to find a suitable location until recently, when this property became available," said Stew Leonard, president and c.e.o. of Stew Leonard's.
Nicknamed the "Disneyland of dairy stores," Stew Leonard's is known for having costumed characters and animated entertainment throughout the store that keep children entertained while parents shop.
Flynn noted that the new Newington store will likely feature new "animatronics." "Stew just went to an amusement park show to get new ideas," she said.
The Newington store will be Stew Leonard's third store in Connecticut. The other store locations are Norwalk and Danbury, Conn.; with another store in Yonkers, N.Y.