They Credit Their Evolution to Their Longstanding Success
See a video about Stewarts’ history here: https://vimeo.com/460645119
Stewart’s Shops has been evolving over the years to “Make Your Life Easier.” The 75 year evolution has taken the iconic convenience store chain from a simple ice cream shop to the neighborhood store on every corner with something for everyone.
In 1945, the first Stewart’s Shop was purchased on Church Avenue in Ballston Spa from Donald Stewart. Since that purchase, Stewart’s has brought both innovation and disruption with products, services and their vertical integration to better serve the customer and to make their customers’ lives easier.
In the 50s, the company focused on ice cream, introducing the ‘Make Your Own’ Sundae and expanded to a few dozen shops. The paper folding half gallon ice cream carton was introduced and is still used to this day.
In the 60s, they offered milk and bread, offering a lower cost option as opposed to home delivery. The ability to buy half gallons of milk in a store completely disrupted and forever hindered the delivery industry.
In the 70s, they offered gas and easier parking for shopping; they started buying numerous small gas stations, as major oil companies were looking to unload their smaller gas stations.
In the 80s, Stewart’s became your coffee shop, introducing ‘Make Your Own’ coffee stations with self-serve glass coffee pots and pastries.
In the 90s, beverage packaging was reinvented with plastic blow mold containers they manufactured themselves using their vertical integration. Stewart’s Refreshers were introduced, and Stewart’s became your beverage shop.
In the 2000s, while most companies were trying to cut staff and automate, Stewart’s invested in its Partners with ESOP and its systems. Employees owned over 1/3 of the company through their ESOP (Employee Stock Ownership Plan).
In the 2010s, Stewart’s became a restaurant expanding their kitchen to prepare food for both in-shop dining and take home food options to make their customers’ lives easier.
Stewart’s credits this series of innovations to their success as a company; they are now in a unique position of profitability and stability to make investments and grow their business. The chain has invested $150 million in shop construction over the past three years. With no signs of slowing down, they will have 19 new shops in 2020 and a 60,000 sq. foot addition to their warehouse/distribution plant will be completed in 2021. The warehouse expansion will further enhance the vertical integration that has made Stewart’s the company it is today.
The long-term approach to family and employee ownership has created Partner loyalty and an ownership mentality. The company has 90 millionaires and that number continues to climb with double digit contributions since the program began and double digit growth for the past seven years. They believe in giving back to the communities they serve and together with the Dake Family, they provide over $7.5 million to nonprofits each year, with an additional $1m in COVID relief given to nonprofits this year.
President of Stewart’s Shops, Gary Dake says, “Thanks to our evolution, we’re fortunate to be in a position to continue investing in new shops and systems, maintain and grow our ESOP program and continue our generous contributions program to make our communities even stronger.”
Today, Stewart’s employs over 5,000 Partners with 340 locations in 31 counties across upstate New York and Southern Vermont.
Stewart’s invites you to join the 75th Anniversary celebration next week! Stop by your local shop for the half gallon ice cream sale, from Monday, 9/28 to Sunday, 10/4; all half gallons are only $3.19. And join them on National Coffee Day on Tuesday, 9/29 for free hot, iced and cold brew coffee from noon to close (excludes Coffee and Cold Brew Refreshers).
(For more details about Stewart’s Shops history, visit their News page.)