The so-called “Disneyland of dairy stores” is the newest tenant joining our Airport Plaza shopping center in Farmingdale, New York. We recently broke ground for the long-awaited arrival of Stew Leonard’s to Long Island, which will include a façade redevelopment for the highly-anticipated grocer.

Stew Leonard’s is perhaps best known for its dairy, which comes from a family-owned farm, as well as its “festival-like” atmosphere. Other departments include an in-store bakery, cut-to-order butcher shop, and fresh seafood department. Stew Leonard’s is different than other groceries in the region as the company only offers 2,200 items, compared to a typical grocer’s 30,000 to 60,000 items, ensuring that all items offered are fresh and regional.

Most importantly, Stew Leonard’s believes in reinvesting in the communities where they have stores, and many of the goods sold at the grocer come from local farms and suppliers on Long Island and New York. In fact, the head of the Long Island Farm Bureau, as well as other local farmers, were at the recent ground breaking to show their support, applauding the 400 jobs the new store will bring to the area.

Stew Leonard’s journey to Long Island

Stew Leonard’s originally planned to enter the Long Island market 12 years ago, in a proposed shopping center across the street from Airport Plaza. While a lease was signed and site work started, the necessary agreements could not be reached regarding the store’s proximity to Republic Airport and the existing flight paths. As a result, construction was halted. At that time, Stew Leonard’s signed a lease in Airport Plaza to be used as a hiring center for the new store. But the accompanying store was never built, so the empty Airport Plaza space was converted into a Stew Leonard’s Wines* -- which has proven to be a popular draw to the center ever since

Kimco purchased Airport Plaza in 2006, and soon began planning for the future of the center. When Dave & Buster’s lease was approaching expiration, we seized that as an opportunity to bring the sought-after Stew Leonard’s to the area. The surrounding community never lost its desire to see a Stew Leonard’s on Long Island, so the grocery chain knew the customer base was there. Preparing for the future, neither Stew Leonard’s nor Kimco wanted to wait for the Dave & Buster’s lease to expire, so a lease was inked two years before Dave & Buster’s lease expiration. The approvals were started, obtained, and held waiting for the day that Dave & Buster’s would vacate.

Within a week of Dave & Buster’s moving out, we tendered to Stew Leonard’s and they started construction on the 60,000-square-foot grocery store. Positive reverberations from the ground break were spread throughout the region, as Kimco, Stew Leonard’s, and the community are equally excited about the grocer’s expansion onto Long Island.

Why Airport Plaza?

Airport Plaza is the perfect site for Stew Leonard’s entry into the region as Route 110 is one of several main North-South corridors for residents on the island. The shopping center is also near the Long Island Expressway, Northern State Parkway, and Southern State Parkway, and sits on the border between Eastern Nassau and West Suffolk. The average household income in Farmingdale is approximately $99,300 in a three-mile radius, and 65.93 percent of residents work in white collar professions, leaving sufficient discretionary income to support a farm-fresh grocer.

Kimco’s finest in the Northeast Region: Tom Pira, Senior Director of Real Estate; Nick Brown, Vice President Development; Rob Wachtler, Director of Real Estate; Scott Gerber, Senior Attorney/Regional General Counsel; Josh Weinkranz, President; and Greg Essopos, Property Manager

Stew Leonard’s joining Airport Plaza is also a benefit to Kimco and the local community. Adding a grocery store to any shopping center increases foot traffic, which then boosts sales for the surrounding tenants as consumers cross shop at various retailers. But Stew Leonard’s commands a larger customer pull than typical grocery stores by attracting customers from a wider region. While most grocery stores attract shoppers from within a three-mile radius, Stew Leonard’s can draw from as far as a 10-mile radius since their customer base is so dedicated and their product selection is unique and high quality. It’s for these reasons that shoppers are also more likely to drive an extra 10 or 15 minutes to Stew Leonard’s for special occasions, like holidays and BBQ preparations.

Stew Leonard’s is anticipating a grand opening in early 2016. To accommodate the new grocery store, we are in the midst of a façade renovation and a re-tenanting to create an expanded loading area for the grocer. Once the store opens, we’ll update the Kimco blog with photos and news from the grand opening event.

*Stew Leonard’s Wines & Spirits are independently owned and operated, not a cooperative buying group and not part of the Stew Leonard’s food chain.