Farm Horizons, August 2012

Old-fashioned milkmen are still making home deliveries in the area

By Allison Christensen, Correspondent

Seventy years ago, residents of small towns and big cities alike relied on their local milkman to bring them fresh milk, butter and cream every day. However, the improvement of refrigerators and popularization of supermarkets after World War II allowed people to buy their dairy products and store them for multiple days without spoiling. They no longer needed the milkman’s daily service. This caused a decline in milkmen’s business, but it hasn’t eliminated it completely.

Today, the milk delivery business is bigger than some people may think. Many schools, churches, daycares, and young families have their milk delivered by the local milkman. Two delivery businesses in this area are Andy’s Dairy Delivery in Montrose, and Kurt’s Home Delivery in Cokato.

Andy Boll, owner of Andy’s Dairy Delivery, has been in the dairy business for 50 years. He started out as a kid milking cows in St. Bonifacius. When he started delivering he worked for Meyer Brothers.

“I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy being on that side of things-putting milk in peoples’ refrigerators instead of in the bulk tank,” Boll said.

Boll quickly discovered that, despite the hard work that is a big part of being a milkman, the job does have its perks; he has been delivering to local customers for more than 20 years.

Kurt Schroeder also worked for Meyer Brothers when he started out in the milk delivery business. At first, being a milkman was just a job to support his family. He planned to stick it out until a better job became available, but with time, he grew to love delivering milk and has been hard at work for almost 21 years. He worked for Meyer Brothers for 10 years, and then started his own business, Kurt’s Home Delivery.

Neither Boll nor Schroeder own cows. There would not be enough hours in a day for them to milk cows before delivering! They both buy their products from large companies that, in turn, receive the products from local family farms. Boll buys milk from Schroeder Milk Company in St. Paul; Schroeder buys milk, ice cream, and other products from Kemps in Minneapolis.

Besides selling dairy products, Boll and Schroeder also sell breads, soups, pizzas, canned fruits and vegetables, juice, coffee beans, deli meats, and much more. They are grocery stores on wheels.

Three days a week, Schroeder drives to Kemps in Minneapolis and Boll drives to Chaska, where someone from Schroeder Milk Company drops off the milk, to load their trucks. Boll delivers his products five days a week. He uses Saturdays to do bookwork and to work on the trucks. On Sunday, he is back in Chaska loading up the truck for Monday. Boll does all of the delivery himself, except for occasional hired help. Schroeder delivers four days a week and splits the workload with his brother.

“In 21 years, I’ve missed two days!” Schroeder said.

According to Schroeder, the wholesale market (schools, churches, etc.) is very competitive. In order to get a contract, the milkman has to bid lower than the competition. If he bids too low, however, he will not make any money. According to Schroeder, a milkman can actually make better money selling to homes, but the wholesale business helps pay the bills as well. Twenty percent of Schroeder’s business is wholesale; the other 80 percent is homes.

Boll and Schroeder are up every day well before the crack of dawn. Schroeder is at his first stop by 4:30 a.m. The people at the beginning of the route either give him a key or leave the door open so he can put the milk and other products directly into the refrigerator. Schroeder charges a 75-cent delivery fee to help pay for fuel and to keep the cost of food down.

The majority of Boll and Schroeder’s milk sales are skim. Twenty years ago it was the exact opposite, most of the sales were whole milk. They suspect the skim trend is due to the fact that people are more health-conscious these days. Schroeder also reported a rise in the sale of specialty milks, such as almond, soy, and rice milk. Organic milk hasn’t quite spiked in popularity yet. According to Boll, it goes in and out of trend with peoples’ health whims and wallet sizes.

Despite the crazy schedule, Boll and Schroeder are almost always home between 3 and 5 p.m. to eat dinner and spend time with their families.

It may sound like all work and no play, but there are two main reasons why Boll and Schroeder have stuck with it this long. Coincidentally, they both responded the same way when asked what they enjoy most about their job.

“The people. There’s some good people out there,” Boll explained. As a result of working in the same area for over 20 years, Boll knows many of his customers by name. Schroeder said that he enjoys getting to know the families, the kids, and the pets.

The other big reason is being self-employed. Boll and Schroeder are both the owners of their own business; they are the ones who answer the phones, fix and load the trucks, and deliver the products.

Neither of them plan to retire. “Milkmen and their trucks are the same, they keep working until they break down,” Schroeder explained.

This statement couldn’t be more true for Boll, who has suffered many serious health issues, including three heart attacks. He recently had open heart surgery and was out of work for seven months. Now, he is back on his route and happy as ever.

“I’ll do it as long as I can,” Boll affirmed. “I thank God that I’m still here and able to do the job!”

If you ever get tired of making that weekly trip to the grocery store to restock, remember the good ol’ days when everything you needed was placed right into your refrigerator by the milkman. Thanks to hard-working men like Andy Boll and Kurt Schroeder, you can sit at home, relax, and let them do the job that they love to do. As Andy Boll said, “The milk must go on!”

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