Hall of Fame Class of 2010–Stew Leonard’s
The power of giving and a little word of mouth can go a long way. It can be an easy fact to forget once you become wrapped up in budgets and bottom lines–assuming you ever knew it at all. Stew Leonard certainly didn’t realize this back in the year 1969 when he was asked to go to the local elementary school’s career day and talk about his dairy store. In his first session he had only three students sitting in–two of which he knew. At the end of his talk, Stew reached into his pocket and dug out three coupons for free ice cream and handed them out to the kids. That little act–that one tiny freebie–required Stew’s next session to be held in the school’s auditorium!
Stew Leonard opened a dairy store in Connecticut back in 1969. He’d grown up the son of a dairy farmer and his father delivered fresh milk daily by truck. However, in the 1960’s things were changing for the dairy business and Stew knew he needed to change with it or go out of business forever. That’s when he envisioned a retail dairy store where kids could watch milk be bottled while mothers did their shopping. In the words of Stew himself, “Where kids go, customers follow.”
WHY FREE ICE CREAM?
Make no mistake–Stew Leonard didn’t hand out coupons for free ice cream with the intent of selling out his next speaker session at the elementary school. Nonetheless that is where he found himself. Ultimately that tiny giveaway spoke to the core values that Stew had held all along: “Create happy customers… by selling the freshest products at the best prices in a friendly, fun atmosphere.”
Even the smallest investments can be seen as a big draw for customers. One of Stew’s most popular Purple Goldfish proved to be a free ice cream with the purchase of $100 or more in groceries. It was that little extra that kept families coming back to his dairy store for years after he first opened his doors.
Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – here is a tour of a Stewart Leonard’s for those who have never had the opportunity to visit one.