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With New Stores on Tap, Stew Leonard's Names First-ever C.O.O.

NORWALK, Conn. -- Stew Leonard's, based here, has appointed a c.o.o. for the first time, as the company gets ready to open two new stores, in Orange, Conn. and East Farmingdale, N.Y. In the newly created position, Chris Williams will help manage the company's growth.

"We have grown very successfully to three stores, but now with two new stores on the horizon, I felt it was time to go outside and find someone with multistore experience to help us grow," explained the company's president and c.e.o., Stew Leonard Jr., in a statement. "Chris' main responsibilities will be to help us coordinate and organize the best practices between our three current stores, to ensure we remain a first-class organization as we prepare to undergo a major growth spurt."

Williams has spent 30 years in the retail sector of the food industry, starting with a part-time job at Pathmark when he was just 15, and working there during his high school and college years. After college he returned to Pathmark full-time in 1981, where over the following two decades he held various positions of increasing responsibility, eventually heading up the chain's sales, advertising, and marketing.

In 1997, Williams moved to Stop & Shop, where he was promoted to divisional senior v.p. and g.m. of the New York Metro region in 2002. His last position with the company was s.v.p. and g.m. of the Connecticut division, the biggest division of Stop & Shop, in which capacity he guided all store operations, marketing, merchandising, finance, and human resources. Additionally, Williams was a member of Ahold's global leadership team.

"I look forward to helping Stew Leonard's successfully grow the business, while maintaining the high standards and family culture the company has thrived on," noted Williams.

According to Stew Leonard's spokeswoman Meghan Flynn, the Orange store is scheduled to open sometime in 2006, with the East Farmingdale store to follow "shortly after." Flynn further told Progressive Grocer that the East Farmingdale store "will be approximately 125,000 square feet. It will be very similar in concept to our other stores. Seventy to 80 percent of the foods we sell in the store will be brought in fresh daily (fish, produce, meat), or we will prepare it on-site. The Orange store will be 145,000 square feet, with a separate garden center, an 11,000-square-foot restaurant and a 15,000- square-foot training center." She added that the company was interested in opening at least two new wine shops, which are individually owned and operated. Stew Leonard's is interested in expansion, observed Flynn, but not at the expense of the company’s "special family feel."

Family-owned and -operated Stew Leonard's is a nearly $300 million dollar business with 2,000 employees. In addition to the original store in Norwalk, Conn., the retailer currently has stores in Danbury, Conn. and Yonkers, N.Y.
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