The Record

My first job was ShopRite cashier. I worked there from my junior year in high school until after I graduated college, even pulling double-duty for a few months when I was covering high school sports part-time at

A grocery store is the truest microcosm of society. Everybody has to eat, so everyone has to go there. No matter your age or size or how much money you have or how good or bad of a person you are, you have to go. Which means you see a lot of wild shit if you work at one long enough.

I mention all of this because a supermarket titan has left us. Stew Leonard Sr. died Wednesday at 93 after what his family called “a brief illness.”

The guy went from being a milkman to opening a 17,000-foot store in Norwalk that is basically an amusement park that sells food, plus other locations in the region. The place is amazing. Most places just put candy at the registers to have kids pressure their parents into buying some. Leonard had animatronic animals playing the banjo and a real-life zoo.

Leonard won the presidential award for entrepreneurial excellence in 1986 and was a champion water skier. He also served time in federal prison for tax fraud, but again — it’s the truest microcosm of society. And while we are very pro-law here, you have to admit that hiding stacks of cash in a fireplace and then sneaking them off to the Caribbean is pretty baller.

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James Kratch can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @jameskratch.


James Kratch is the managing editor of ESNY. He previously worked as a Rutgers and Giants (and Mike Francesa) beat reporter for NJ Advance Media.