Stewart's is a local chain of convenience stores throughout Upstate New York and Vermont. Based out of Saratoga Springs, Stewart's currently has 315 locations, employs nearly 4000 people, and creates annual sales of over $800 million.
The chain's origins begin with Percy W. and Charles V. Dake, dairy farmers from Greenfield, New York. After a law change in New York requiring the pasteurization of milk, the Dake brothers created the Saratoga Dairy, which provided these services to the local dairy farms. With the money from this venture, the Dake brothers bought a processing plant, and opened a shop in Greenfield in 1940. The original store was small, selling cheese, powdered whey and casein that were processed on the premises.
The brothers purchased an unused ice cream plant from Donald Stewart in 1945. The plant, located in Ballston Spa, included the plant and a small shop. Under the name "Stewart's Homemade Ice Cream", the brothers reopened the shop. The store was the first in the United States to sell ice cream in half-gallon sized folded cardboard boxes. The shop also gained notoriety for their "Make Your Own" Sundaes, which were advertised on the first local television station, WRGB. Business was swift, and additional stores were opened in Saratoga Springs and South Glens Falls over the next three years.
Stewart's Ice Cream was officially incorporated in 1950, and the ice cream production was relocated from Ballston Spa to Greenfield. Within five years, over 50 stores had opened around Saratoga and Albany. In an attempt to expand business, the Dake brothers petitioned the Department of Agriculture to allow the sale of Saratoga Dairy products in Stewart's shops, which the department allowed in 1957. By acquiring milk from their sister company, Stewart's was able to undercut the dairy competition in the Capitol District, and controlled 10% of milk sales within a few short months.
The company began buying up smaller local chains and converting them into Stewart's shops. In 1969, Stewart's purchased the 7 locations of "Farmer in the Dell". In 1977, Stewart's purchased 15 locations of "Normanskill". Expanding their inventory, Stewart's began selling gasoline in 1977, and self-service coffee in 1980. In 1993, the chain's 200 store was opened, and the corporate warehouse and processing plant were relocated and expanded.
Today, Stewart's carries over 3000 items, including a vast array of "homemade" ice cream, and 15 flavors of their own soda. In total, about 3/4 of Stewart's inventory is created and/or distributed by the company itself, with most items created in New York State. By using their own items, 90% of Stewart's inventory is at or below competing store's prices. Stewart's also runs a variety of promotions, including their ice cream flavors of the week, and buy 10 get one free on half-gallons of milk.
Stewart's also contributes to the communities where their stores are located, with a goal of contributing 5% of its annual profits given to local charities. In 2002, two thirds of charitable contributions were given to groups working with children. Stewart's also created a tuition assistance fund for children of company employees, called "Make Your Own Scholarship."
(This is not the same company that makes Stewart's Fountain Classics, a brand of soda that can be found in the rest of the United States. That Stewart's is owned by the Cable Car Beverage Corporation of Denver, Colorado. Try their Key Lime Soda. It's kosher!)