Stewart’s Shops Creates Wealth for Employees

If you lived in upstate New York or southern Vermont, you’d be familiar with the Stewart’s Shops chain of convenience stores. But you might not know just how well the stores’ employees are doing.

Stewart’s launched an ESOP in 2001, and its 5,000-plus employees now own close to 40% of the 355-store company. It recently announced a $17 million contribution to the plan, $6 million more than a year ago. That amounts to nearly 20% of an ESOP participant’s salary, the company said.

Employees also saw their existing stock balance increase by 13%, including dividends. After six years with the company, a typical employee’s balance amounts to more than a year’s pay. Almost 1,000 partners (as the company calls its employees) have balances greater than $100,000.

And then there are some millionaires—75 of them at last count. The youngest one, a store manager, is only 46 years old. About a third of the group started out as hourly employees.

Stewart’s ESOP participants also receive paid maternity leave, half-priced YMCA fitness and day care memberships, and access to a scholarship fund that provides $300,000 a year to partners’ dependents. The Albany (NY) Times-Union named the company to its 2019 list of top workplaces and gave president Gary Dake its annual leadership award.

“We…believe in sharing with our co-workers,” said Dake, “both by using the Golden Rule and not asking people to do what we wouldn’t do; and financially through our ESOP, an incentive-based manager pay system, and a growth-sharing pool for partners at the shop level.”