Around The Store With Stew
10 Items That Surprised Us At Thanksgiving
- Of course, the purple sweet potato was extremely popular this year! They’ve been promoted on the Netflix series Live to 100. They are loaded with antioxidants. Even more than blueberries.
- Turkey in a box – Dinner for 8. Our catering business was up 20% and 90% of you ordered online. Just like holiday travel was at a record high, so was our catering. You wanted our chefs to do all the cutting and prepping. 70% of our extra side dish orders were mashed potatoes, stuffing, sweet potato mousse, snowball rolls, and of course, mac & cheese.
- Apple cider donuts were another superstar as was our freshly made guacamole with our multi grain chips. It seemed it was on everybody’s table this holiday.
- We also introduced MrBeast bars and cookies, which are a social media phenomenon. The originator (Jimmy Donaldson, aka MrBeast) has over 210 million followers on YouTube.
- My sister’s cheese biscuits from the Bakery. We are taking an English biscuit and adding Cheddar cheese. It was a star on your Thanksgiving table.
- Large turkeys (20lbs. and up) flew off the shelves and we ran out early.
- Baked Brie cheese was a winner. Who doesn’t like melty Brie?
- 4 lb. fruit bowls. Let us do the chopping!
- Fresh squeezed orange juice. Brix measures the sweetness of the juice. You get great sweet taste if the fruit is over a 10 Brix. Our OJ is running at a 12+. That really means there is 12% natural sugar in the juice. Pure honey is a 70-80 Brix!
Christmas Tree Shortage? Not At Stew's
The news has been reporting shortages of trees, but we planted plenty. Christmas trees look fantastic this year. We’ll sell 50,000 trees. We have one of the largest Christmas tree shops in the USA! Good Day New York was in and did a segment about how to pick a great tree.
Here are the six tips:
- Buy from a great grower. You can get a cheaper tree by buying it from the south, but the weather is warmer. We found that a southern tree doesn’t last as well in the northeast. Our trees come from Sherbrooke, Canada, which is just above the Vermont border. It’s a 3-hour drive north of Okemo Ski Resort.
- Tug on a branch. Glide your hand down one of the branches and make sure there are no needles in your hand. If you have a handful of needles, turn around and walk away. The tree is not fresh.
- Get a fresh cut. Even though we’re getting daily deliveries of trees, there’s still some sap that develops on the trunk. Get that cut off and it will allow the tree to drink rapidly when you get home.
- Buy some Miracle Tree. It’s in a big green jug and it’s like a Gatorade.
It jumpstarts your tree to drink water.
- When you get the tree home, keep it away from heat vents and direct sunlight. If it dries out, it could become a fire hazard.
- MOST IMPORTANT TIP - I asked our grower Pierre where he put his tree in his home. His answer? “Where my wife tells me to put it!” It’s the same in my house!
Also, for every tree we cut, Pierre plants two. Our business is growing.
For 40,000 Free Swim Lessons,
I’ll Happily Jump In The Pool
We just launched a partnership with our friend and Olympic Gold Medalist Rowdy Gaines and Step Into Swim, which is part of the Pool & Hot Tub Alliance. Thanks to the generous support of our donors, we awarded Step Into Swim a $200,000 donation, which they fully matched. This $400,000 will be used to fund 40,000 free or low-cost swim lessons in 2024! Rowdy will be at the check presentation next spring. I asked him if we could race in the pool that day for fun (Elon Musk and Zuckerberg have nothing on us!) He can’t wait to compete against me! I also asked Senator Blumenthal if he’d like to jump in the pool with us, too. He’s an avid swimmer and a big supporter of water safety. I’m normally an optimist, but in this case, I really think I’m going to come in last!
What's Our Biggest Renovation Challenge In Norwalk Right Now?
We just finished the new customer bathrooms and renovated the barbecue and kitchen. No more porta-potties for the bathrooms. I know you were all thrilled shopping Norwalk! Our next big project is getting an elevator installed and operational by December 15th.
What Do I Think About When I Take My First Bite Of Turkey?
I feel so fortunate that we were able to give out over 2,000 turkeys this year to local charities through our annual Turkey Brigade. I was sitting there looking at a full table of food and I know there are many families who are less fortunate. I think of them when I take my first bite.
My Dad's Bronze Statue
We’re going to have an unveiling after the first of the year. You’ll all be invited!
Why We Didn’t Mention Stew Leonard’s At Thanksgiving Dinner
My sister, Beth, and her husband, Bill, hosted 30 of our family members at their home on Thanksgiving. Beth and Bill smoked a turkey, and we had one delivered from the store. They were both delicious. Of course, they also baked up a storm with fresh breads, pies (bumbleberry…yum), and my grandmother’s nut bread. We said that two things were forbidden that day: number one, we couldn’t talk about the store. Otherwise, we’d be talking about operational issues! Number two: we weren’t going to talk about family business at all. I joked with everybody and said our Thanksgiving therefore only lasted 15 minutes! Overall, it was a great day, but it was sad not having my father at the table. I’m sure he was with us in spirit.
INFLATION Was On Everyone's Mind
Fox Business News, CNBC, Good Day New York, WCBS 880, and 1010 WINS all wanted to talk turkey. The exciting thing about this Thanksgiving was our dinner for eight. It was about $200 or about $25 per head for a full Thanksgiving dinner from turkey to pie. These were on fire this year. Customers arrived on Wednesday and Thursday and all we did was simply hand them dinner in a box. A winner.
4 Positives And 4 Negatives
Thanks for your feedback on the Catering Survey – We’re already coming up with ideas to improve for the next holiday.
- Delicious and convenient food choices.
- You showed your customer loyalty to all the Stew locations.
- You gave us high marks for customer service and helpful Team Members.
- Easy ordering and organized pickup for a smooth transaction.
- You’d like the reheating instructions easier to find and print on the website.
- Some of the sides needed more attention to flavor; they were inconsistent.
- You’d love to see even more side dishes made available.
- Making sure any modifications by customers to an existing order were completed.
Did Travis And Taylor Really Visit Stew's?
Senator Blumenthal pardoned two turkeys with us named Travis and Taylor. They will go to a sanctuary in Connecticut to live out their lives. The senator said that a life in Connecticut is much better than the turkey that the White House pardoned! By the way, he said that they have a forbidden topic at their Thanksgiving table also. And that’s politics!
Would You Tattoo A Pig On Your Arm?
We just hired a new chef, Alex, for the Danbury store. How serious is he about food and BBQ? He has a tattoo on his arm that shows the different cuts of a pig. I’d say that’s pretty serious, wouldn’t you?
Mark Wahlberg vs.
My daughter Chase met Mark Wahlberg who just came out with Flecha Azul Tequila. He said he’ll be visiting Stew’s to promote his product and he’s going to sell more of his tequila than Bryan Cranston did when he stopped by to promote his Dos Hombres mezcal. Try some of the Athletic Brewing Co. non-alcoholic craft beer. You can hardly taste the difference. There are 2 million people in AA for a reason. Everybody doesn’t consume alcohol on Thanksgiving.
I’ll Be A Grandfather Again Next Week!
My second oldest daughter, Ryann, is due with her first baby and the family is very excited. That will make four grandchildren for me. Really fun time.
The Biggest Surprise At Our Wine & Spirits Stores This Thanksgiving?
Sales of cocktails in a can were twice that of wine for last year and nonalcoholic beer is growing rapidly.