A grocery store for the children.
It started as a dairy farm: Clover Farms Dairy in Norwalk, Connecticut, to be precise.
Even at that point, it was no ordinary milk delivery service. Their trucks had plastic cows on the front that mooed for the children. This small differentiator has become larger and larger.
In 1969, when dairy delivery was going out of fashion, Stew Leonard changed the business model from a dairy farm to a grocery store. His idea at the time was to entertain the children by having them be able to watch the milk being bottled while the parents shopped
As the years went by, they added more products, opened additional stores, but they did not lose touch with the core principle that they wouldn’t just be providing products, they would be providing an experience the children would enjoy. Something that would change the expectations of what a grocery store is.
Walking into a grocery store, one does not expect to see a singing cow, or singing quartet of chickens (they are animatronics).
One does not expect to need to go through the whole store due to being in a one-way maze taking the shopper from section to section (there are shortcuts, similar to Ikea though).
One does not expect to see demonstrations of the fresh food being made, such as mozzarella being squeezed and pulled, or rice cakes and donuts cooked right in the front. This show is part of the experience, as are the free samples that are often being given out to demonstrate the high quality of the freshly produced food.
One does not expect to receive free ice-cream or coffee at the end of their grocery shopping trip (assuming they’ve spent over $100).
Simply put, one does not expect one’s kids to want to go to the grocery store.
Stew Leonard’s changes these expectations for their stores, but will the adults be happy if the kids are happy? They believe that they will, and they will go above and beyond expectations to make it happen. Their approach to customer service started with a simple argument about eggnog, a loss of a customer, and a change in their policy so severe they’ve inscribed in granite in front of every stores: “Rule #1 — The Customer is Always Right”; Rule #2 – If the Customer is Ever Wrong, Re-Read Rule #1”. The full story of that argument is known to every employee and is available here.
Now they’ve expanded to Paramus, NJ, and once again are upping their game to go beyond expectations even for those that are familiar with their stores: They’ve released an app called Stew’s Magic Door which adds augmented reality games into the store and shopping experience.
The drive is likely too far for many of us in NJ for groceries, but if you’re near the area it may be worth stopping in to see how picking up groceries can be transformed into a fun event for the whole family.
At Garden State Trust Company, we also understand that we need to surpass the expectations of our customers set by the majority of financial service providers. That’s one of the reasons we’re an independent trust company, are local, and provide specialized services based on long-term relationships with our clients.