|Photo Essay: Special Delivery
Published: Wednesday, September 3, 2003
by Grace Rauh
When Michal Grycz's pulls his white 1960 Ford delivery truck up to the tree-lined curb on Guinda Street the quiet road becomes a classic Norman Rockwell scene.
Michal the Milkman, as he is known to loyal clients and friends, hand delivers
dairy goods throughout the Peninsula, breathing life into a nearly obsolete American
Every Wednesday morning at 7 a.m., Michal loads up his truck and takes to the neighborhood streets delivering milk, butter, eggs, yogurt and an assortment of dairy products to homes across Silicon Valley.
Michal leaves Clover Stornetta milk cartons in the hands of young children who scamper to their front door at his call, and when his client's are not at home he places orders on front porches, by back doors, under shady trees, and sometimes right in the refrigerator.
"Some people give you the keys to their house. You go in
and put it in the fridge. They leave you love notes, little cookies,
He knows his customers by name and they return his bright greetings with smiles and lively conversation.
Delivering dairy products door to door in the new millennium is no great money
maker, and Michal scrapes by to keep his small company and four employees afloat.
He serves 200 customers from Burlingame to Mountain View. Half are businesses
and half Peninsula residents.
"Milk is a humble business," he said.
The 36-year-old Palo Alto native vividly remembers helping Wally, his family's milkman, unload milk from his truck. When Michal heads out on his route today, he feels connected to Wally and the milkmen who have come before him dressed crisp white uniforms. In his casual T-shirt and shorts, Michal looks the modern milkman, but his daily routine differs little from milkmen of the past.
"I'm carrying on a tradition that has gone back generations.
There are superficial differences but the essence is all right
there; right there," he
Michal graduated from St. Francis High School in Mountain View and soon found
a job developing film in the Eastman Kodak darkroom. When he didn't gel with
the structured corporate environment, he decided to start his own business.
In 1987, an intrepid Michal visited the Peninsula Creamery, and left determined to become a milkman. The Creamery became his supplier and within a week customers began to call.
For the first few months Michal tooled around on his Yamaha motorcycle,
delivering to three customers out of a backpack, but he eventually
graduated to an MG Midget
and later picked up a 1960 van as his customer base grew. When
the Creamery stopped manufacturing and distributing dairy products
in the early '90s, Michal began
working with Clover Stornetta.
Today he still operates on his old stomping ground -- leasing the Creamery's
refrigerators and space at 800 High St. But that arrangement won't last forever.
Michal hopes to stay in downtown Palo Alto when he is booted from the building,
but it is unclear where he will go.
After 16 years in the milk delivery business, the one thing Michal isn't worried
about losing are his loyal customers - whom Michal consider his friends.
"People really open up and share their lives with you," he said. "I
get up and go around and visit with my friends."
His customers could easily add milk to their regular shopping lists and save
money, but they remain committed to Michal.
"Delivering milk to people's homes the way it used to be
done is just a wonderful thing. And it is one less thing to carry
when I go to the grocery store," said
Hiromi Kelty, one of Michal's customers. When Michal pulls up,
her 8- and 9 year-old daughters race to see him and try to hitch