Stewart’s Shops, the chain of convenience stores found across the Capital Region and beyond, has seen gas and coffee sales drop during the COVID-19 pandemic in keeping with the decreased commuter traffic.

But the shops are selling more dairy and grocery items, spokeswoman Erica Komoroske said. That includes milk, butter, eggs and packaged ice cream.

Komoroske said the company’s vertical integration “allows us to stay open and in stock during these uncertain times.’’ Stewart’s also gets fresh milk from 25 local farms.

Additionally, the company on Monday announced late last year that it put another $17.5 million into its Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP).

That’s also about 17.5 percent of company employees’ gross pay and represents a 6.3 percent dividend, according to Stewart’s.

Officials cite increased operating profitability and returns on outside investments as the reason for the increase.

Employees own over 40 percent of the company through the ESOP plan.  It is 100 percent funded by the company for anyone working at least 1,000 hours a year. After six years in the plan, an employee’s balance is usually greater than a year’s pay.

There are over 1,000 employees with a balance of over $100,000, and 88 have more than $1 million worth of company stock.

Nearly a third of those millionaires-on-paper started out as hourly employees, and over a third are still actively working as opposed to those who have retired.

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