The milkman makes a comeback
Publication Date: Wednesday Aug 30, 1995

The milkman makes a comeback

Family-owned company delivers more than just cow juice

by Kristen Khorge

Remember the good old days when the milkman would come and deliver bottles of ice-cold whole milk to the doorstep? Or perhaps he had a key to the house and would put the milk away in the icebox. If you don't remember the milkman, that's because sometime in the dawn of the supermarket and convenience store, the milkman's role in America died. Most can't even remember the last time they drank whole milk or bought milk in a bottle in this age of low- and non-fat food products.

Yet in 1995, the milkman is making a comeback. Today he delivers more than just milk, however. Cheese, ice cream, bagels, bacon, eggs, yogurt, salsa, juices and frozen dinners are just some of the other items he brings to the doorstep.

The Milkman is a San Mateo-based company owned by Pat Borella. He and his wife run the business, and their son Patrick is one of the drivers. The Borellas started out in Sonoma County 11 years ago and expanded to the Bay Area. Currently, The Milkman has routes in Sonoma and Marin counties, San Francisco, the East Bay, and most recently the Peninsula, including Menlo Park and Palo Alto.

Pat Borella said he learned to become creative with the delivery menu because, "People just don't drink enough milk."

The Milkman offers a variety of frozen lasagnas, raviolis and homemade soups, as well as salad dressing, tortillas and burritos.

"This business is a convenience to our customers," Borella said. "It saves a trip to the supermarket. We have a lot of working people, or people with kids, and to them this is a handy service."

Being such a unique business, Borella has had to create every aspect, from the computer program he uses to specially designed milk trucks.

"There are no books to tell you how to do this," Borella said. "Nothing is specialized for my business because the home delivery industry has been gone for over 25 years."

Patrick Borella said he doesn't mind working for his father, but that delivery has its high and low points.

"The bad part is that we deliver at night so sometimes I can't sleep much," Borella said. "The best part of the job is also the hours, just because I like night, and there is no traffic."

It is 6:10 a.m., the sun is a tiny orange sliver in the eastern sky, and Borella is finishing up his Menlo Park route. The big white and green truck he is driving is the only vehicle on the road. He stops at a ranch house with an ice bucket on the front porch. "They want ice cream," Borella says, reaching into a freezer to grab a half-gallon of Rocky Road.

The milk truck Borella is driving has been specially designed to keep everything cold. A narrow aisle separates freezers full of fruity popsicles and ice cream sandwiches from the crates of bottled organic milk with cream so thick it floats to the top of the bottle.

As the route comes to a close, people begin coming out of their homes in bathrobes to grab the morning paper. Many stare at the milk truck as it drives by. Some wave.

"People are funny about us delivering," Borella says. "Usually customers are asleep when I deliver, but one time, a San Francisco customer came out to meet me, saying that he always wanted to meet his milkman. It was 4:30 in the morning!"

On some of Borella's routes, he has keys to the houses and takes the deliveries inside.

"I think it is interesting that the milkman is such a part of American life that people don't think twice about giving a key to a stranger," Borella says. "It is neat to see that people trust us."

Borella says the most unusual thing to happen to him during delivery occurred in Hillsborough one morning as he covered for someone else's route.

"I went to one house with a gate, and after I punched in the code and delivered, the gate closed behind me," Borella says. "I had to jump the fence to get out, and a neighbor saw me and called the police. I'm not sure how she missed the big white milk truck out front."

Borella drove three blocks down the road and suddenly was surrounded by police.

"They wanted to know who I was, and what was in the truck," Borella says. "I let them search the truck. It was just a misunderstanding."

Both father and son say that in every new town they begin service to, the police are always curious to see what they are up to. Often the police have followed them on their routes.

Pat Borella said many of his customers have stories about a milkman from their childhood. As for the infamous "milkman child" phenomenon, Borella said, "We're not even close to having the milkman reputation."

Borella said customers seem to appreciate the service. Around the holidays, many give gifts of baked goods, candy, and alcohol to say thanks.

"It's funny because being a milkman is just a job to us," Borella said. "To others, our job is very exciting."

For more information about The Milkman, routes and prices, call 348-4984. 

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