Manufacturing Month: Five Questions with Stewart’s Shops
To celebrate Manufacturing Month 2016, we are spotlighting several Saratoga County-based manufacturers and the work they do. Today’s feature is Stewart’s Shops. Stewart’s Shops is a 1/3 employee and 2/3 family owned convenience store chain based in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. They currently employ over 4,500 people and operate 335 shops across upstate New York and southern Vermont. Stewart’s is a vertically integrated company. They operate their own manufacturing and distribution center and distribute over 75% of the products sold in their shops.
What do you manufacture?
Our dairy and ice cream operations produce milk products, Refresher drinks and juices, along with what we may be best known for – our ice cream. We make over 55 different flavors! In addition, our manufacturing center is home to the Stewart’s Kitchen where we make chili, soups, macaroni and cheese, garden salads, parfaits, snack cups, and packaged meal entrees, which we call ‘Now & Then’.
From a manufacturing and distribution perspective our primary customer and focus is on supporting our 335 shops. In turn, our shops provide service and products to customers throughout 31 counties across upstate New York and southern Vermont.
What does your ideal workforce look like?
Our ideal workforce is one that is diverse and technically strong. In order to perform the many functions required at our manufacturing and distribution center we need employees with a wide range of skill sets. For example, we employ production and warehouse workers, drivers, accountants, engineers, marketers, etc. to support our operations.
What’s the biggest challenge you currently face?
One of the challenges we face, which can actually be considered an opportunity, is the continuing effort to ensure that our products meet the wants and needs of our customers. In 2015, we expanded our kitchen operation to meet the growing demand for easy food items in our shops. We find people are eating smaller meals, or grazing throughout the day as it fits into their busier schedules. The Stewart’s kitchen has tripled in both size and number of employees and has allowed us to produce new fresh products to help support our growing business. And this hands-on approach, or Vertical Integration, is why we can offer quality products at a great value.
What makes Saratoga County attractive as a business location for you?
Saratoga County has proven to be a great business location for Stewart’s Shops. The strong infrastructure of the county along with the close proximity to a large number of our shops enables us to efficiently deliver our products. Our location also provides a strong workforce since a vast number of our employees reside in Saratoga County. We also support local agriculture, as we purchase milk from 30 farms near our manufacturing operation. This proximity provides us strong relationships and trust with our farmers and allows us to offer fresh and local products to our customers. And our relationships within the county extend beyond our shops, through our contributions – both monetary and product – that we provide to our local organizations and events. It’s why we say We Are Closer to You.