Singing Cows & Cheese Logs
It wouldn't seem that a dairy farm turned regional grocery store with animatronic singing livestock would have much in common with a Swedish cheap furniture conglomerate, but Stew Leonard's is more Ikea than you'd think. They both have a loyal following. Despite sitting just beyond city limits and difficult to reach on public transportation, they are both thick with aisle blocking shoppers on weekends. And most importantly, both are laid out in that follow the path style where you are swept along with the tide of crowds and carts (god forbid you forget something and have to disrupt the traffic flow'at least Ikea has those sporadically placed shortcuts). Granted, Ikea is better known, and there are far more of them (there are only three S.L.s), but if people were better acquainted with Stew they would agree with my assessment.
In essence, Stew's is no more than a campy cavernous grocery store with a petting zoo and outdoor seasonal selections. The prices seemed a little high, the stock was oddball–for instance they didn't have basics like pecans, but there was plenty of seven-layer dip and cheese logs. A good portion of the store is devoted to prepared food, which I tend to shy away from. In fact, there is hardly a core to the place, there's a deli section, bakery, meat and fish counters, then rows of refrigerated Stew Leonard's brand things like soup, dips, sauces, sushi. And lots of steam tables filled with hot salad bar things you'd find in midtown delis during lunchtime: corned beef, kung pao chicken, macaroni and cheese, the whole hodgepodge gamut. I totally don't go for this stuff, it seems excessive.
My theory is that in the suburbs take out and delivery isn't as ubiquitous (I'm not sure about Westchester, but in Portland where I'm from, pizza is really the only thing you can get delivered to your home. My mom freaked when I told her you can get McDonald's delivery Manhattan) so hitting a grocery store on the way home from work for ready-made food is their equivalent.
I do like the idea of roaming people in animal costumes, and their bags around the world photos are funny (and pre-gnome hype) but I wasn't totally bowled over by the bovine shrine. But if I were ever in Yonkers I wouldn't hesitate to stop in, pet a goat, grab a cone of soft serve and maybe pick up a box of frozen crab Rangoon.
Stew Leonard's * Stew Leonard Dr., Yonkers, NY