In 1969, a Norwalk, Connecticut, dairy farmer named Stew Leonard had an epiphany: the milk delivery business was going to go the way of the horse and buggy. Leonard decided to found a small dairy shop with seven employees and carrying just eight items. The little market quickly grew into the world’s largest dairy store. Today, Stew Leonard’s Farm Fresh Foods are located in Norwalk, Danbury, and Newington, Connecticut; and Yonkers, New York. It is a $300 million annual enterprise with approximately 2,000 employees.
The stores sell more than 6,000 items—everything from meats to wine to bakery goods to gifts—in a farmer’s market atmosphere where the primary rule is literally chiseled in stone on three-ton granite slabs parked at the entrance to each store: “The Customer is Always Right.” In addition to its commitments to customer service, Stew Leonard’s is regarded as the Disneyland of dairy stores because of its costumed characters, petting zoo, and animatronics.
The loss prevention (LP) department at Stew Leonard seeks creative solutions. It hasn’t gone so far as to use the company’s six-foot-tall dancing bananas as spy cams, but it has put into place an innovative video synopsis technology that enables security to save copious staff hours during investigations.
“We’re a relatively small security department with a significant enclave of cameras throughout our buildings,” says Bruce Kennedy, Stew Leonard’s director of LP and logistics. “We have close to 500 cameras in the network.” This becomes an issue when investigations of thefts, accidents, and other issues occur. “One investigation can take eight to 12 hours—especially if there is video involved,” he states.
About two years ago, the loss prevention team began looking for a solution to shorten the process of reviewing CCTV video. “We looked at the entire gamut of solutions…. We attended several trade shows, took a look at white papers on the Internet, and I spoke to a lot of my peers in the industry,” Kennedy recalls, adding that the solution they were seeking had to be “cost-feasible; it had to integrate seamlessly, and had to be easy to use—that was probably the most important thing.”