Stewart’s Shops said Tuesday it distributed an additional Employee Stock Ownership Plan dividend to its participating employees. The amount represents 4.5 percent of employees’ ESOP balance at the end of 2019.

The company said the employees, which it calls Partners, can either take the dividend as a cash payout or roll it over into their ESOP account. Stewart’s said that 90 employees companywide have ESOP balances exceeding $1 million.

That figure is up from 67 current or former employees with million-dollar balances two years ago.

“Even in these times, we have stayed the course; outside of our hardworking Partners, our stability has been our largest asset,” said Stewart’s President Gary Dake in a press release announcing the dividend. “Our ESOP is the best way to reward our Partners for their commitment and hard work which have been imperative to our stability and long term success.”

The employees own one-third of the privately held company, while the Dake family owns the other two-thirds. Employees qualify for the ESOP if they’ve worked either 500 hours in a quarter or 1,000 hours in a year, whichever comes first.

They’re partially vested in the plan, reaching 100 percent vesting in six years, when the balance in the plan equals about one year’s pay.

The company also offers paid maternity leave, half-priced YMCA fitness and day care memberships, and “Make Your Own” scholarships that have provided more than $5.5 million in scholarship support to dependents of Stewart’s employees, the company said.

The company, which has 5,000 employees, said it has openings in its shops, plant and corporate office, and that candidates could learn more at

Stewart’s, founded in 1945, operates 337 stores in upstate New York and southern Vermont.

Read more at Albany Times Union