Stew Leonard’s is a Westchester classic. Originating in Norwalk, CT in 1969 with seven employees, there are now four stores, including Yonkers, Danbury and Newington, CT, 2,000 employees, and plans for a fifth in Farmingdale, Long Island. Customers seeking fresh dairy products, prepared foods, fresh produce, and plenty of samples have been flocking to Stew’s for years. Whole Foods, meanwhile, is a leader in the organic and natural foods groceries world, with locations in Port Chester, White Plains, Yonkers, and Greenwich. Whole Foods locations contain local specialty products that aren’t available everywhere. Stew’s on the other hand, has an inventory largely consisting of products made in-house, for better or for worse. Pastries, ready-to-bake pizzas, milk, whatever you might need, Stew’s makes it, and more often than not, it’s of high quality and is reasonably priced. But the question is, where should you be doing your shopping? To find out, I visited the Stew Leonard’s in Yonkers, and the Whole Foods in Port Chester.
Stew Leonard’s certainly makes a stronger first impression. The giant property houses a factory, a separate liquor store, and, of course, the massive market. Whole Foods looks like the same Whole Foods you’ll see around the country, with its attractive green color scheme serving as a beacon for eco-conscious shoppers. The interior and layout is a different story. Stew Leonard’s is extremely complicated to maneuver. Its aisles are maze-like, while Whole Foods is set up similar to a traditional supermarket. There’s a reason they all look like this, with numbered aisles, a dedicated bakery, and deli section, etc. It works, and people like it.
Photo provided by Whole Foods
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As far as selection, it really depends on what you’re looking for. If you handed me a long list of groceries and told me I needed to choose which store I thought would have everything on it, I’d choose Whole Foods. Stew Leonard’s mostly has things they make, plus the big-name brands like Oreo’s and Skippy peanut butter. Whole Foods skips on the major brands, but they do have a larger selection. I always trust that when I enter Whole Foods, I’ll leave with everything I need, while at Stew Leonard’s, I was more confident I’d find new things I didn’t know I wanted, like their delicious apple cider donuts or their house-made pastrami. Stew Leonard’s has more of the fun stuff, but as far as selection, Whole Foods has the edge.
What about quality? Stew Leonard’s appeal comes primarily from their products made in-house, and the majority of those are very good. But when the store misses on a product, there’s not much you can do. If they make it, odds are they don’t carry a competitor’s product. At Whole Foods, there’s a larger variety for all products. Stew’s doesn’t have that large of an organic, gluten-free, or vegan selection either, if that’s what you’re looking for. But comparing Whole Food’s products made in-house with Stew’s, I have to give Stew’s the edge.
So which is best? It depends on what you value most as a shopper. If solid selection and an attractive and simple layout is important then Whole Foods should be your choice. But for original, in-house products and a fun and kid-friendly shopping experience, go to Stew’s.