The price of a Thanksgiving turkey may be higher than it was last year, but people are willing to pay more for an organic bird and trimmings, said Stew Leonard Jr., CEO of supermarket chain Stew Leonard's.
"What people what right now is an all-natural product," said Leonard.
Stew Leonard's began in 1969 as a small dairy store with just seven employees. It's still family-owned and operated, but has grown to become a nearly $400 million business with more than 2,000 employees. Stew Leonard's has four stores in the Northeast and is adding another on Long Island. Unlike traditional grocery stores, which sell an average of 45,000 items, each Stew Leonard's store carries only 2,200 items.
Leonard notes that the Thanksgiving meal is generally the first time extended families gather after the start of the school year, and in his opinion, he expects families will spend the money they are saving at the gas pump on the Thanksgiving menu as opposed to in department stores.
"I feel like the extra money people have in their back pocket they will spend on the Thanksgiving holiday," said Leonard.
Leonard said the Long Island store is scheduled to open in January 2016 and will be run by his cousin Dan. But while he has been approached many times about ramping up the number of stores, Leonard said the family has been successful in taking a measured approach to growth.
"We've had all these competitors open up around us over the years and we've continued growing," said Leonard, adding that the company has enjoyed high employee satisfaction as evidenced by its selection as one of Fortune's "100 Best Companies to Work for in America."
"Our goal for Thanksgiving is for people to sit back when they finish their meal and say 'That was really good, let me have another glass of wine,'" said Leonard.