Stew Leonard Sr. of Westport, Connecticut, reportedly died Wednesday, April 26 at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City after a brief illness. Stew Leonard’s website.

Leonard opened the first Stew Leonard’s in December 1969 in Norwalk, Connecticut.

The successful grocery chain has seven locations in Connecticut, New York and New Jersey, including Norwalk and Danbury in Fairfield County, Newington in Hartford County, East Meadow and Farmingdale, Yonkers in Westchester and Paramus in Bergen County.

His original store was named the “World’s Largest Dairy Store” by Ripley’s Believe It or Not and entered the Guinness Book of World Records for the highest sales per square foot of selling space.

One of his favorite hobbies is standing at the Stew Leonard’s front door to greet customers, often by first name.

“He loved giving back and had a heart of giving,” read his obituary.

Leonard also attended Norwalk High School and the University of Connecticut College of Agriculture. He is survived by his wife of 70 years, Marianne Guthman Leonard, their four children Stew Junior, Tom, Beth Hollis and Jill Tavello, and 13 grandchildren.

Leonard’s family will continue to run the company he founded, which is now a $600 million business. His memorial service and funeral will be private, and there will be a living celebration on an as-yet-unannounced date.

Those wishing to donate to Leonard’s memory can donate to the Stu Leonard III Foundation for Water Safety, a charity that helps fund swimming lessons for children in need in memory of his grandson who drowned in 1989.

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