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April 17, 2020 VIRAL BUSINESS

The milkman cometh: Bridgeport’s Wade’s Dairy reintroduces home delivery

PHOTO | Wade’s Dairy During World War I, Wade’s first motorized delivery truck put the dairy’s predecessor workhorses out to pasture. But home milk delivery was just ramping up.

After a brief 28-year hiatus, Bridgeport’s Wade’s Dairy is bringing back home delivery of its Clover Farms milk and other dairy delights.

“We did home delivery for 100 years after my great-grandfather [Frank Henry Wade] started the company in 1893 and made deliveries with a horse and buggy,” company President Douglas Wade said. “He probably had some neighbors, and their cow died, and he said, ‘I’ve got some extra milk I can give you.’ That’s how home delivery started way back in the day.

It endured for nearly a century until 1992, when the proliferation of convenience stores made home delivery no longer economically feasible.

“The Cumberland Farms [convenience stores] of the era put the home-delivery companies out of business,” Wade said. “There used to be a bread man, a milkman, a diaper-delivery service. Cumberland came out with the idea that they’d use milk as a giveaway item [loss-leader] to bring people into stores — and that was the quick ending of the milkman.”

At least until now. Wade said home deliveries will begin on Monday, April 20. It’s especially timely since many major supermarket and warehouse chain stores in Connecticut have been experiencing shortages of dairy products and especially fresh eggs in the six weeks since the coronavirus crisis hit with full force.

It’s also fortuitous for Wade’s, since school cafeteria and commercial food service — in normal times the bulk of the dairy’s business — ”came to a crashing halt” around March 16 in the wake of school and business closings, Wade said. “We found ourselves looking at the crossroads of, ‘Are we going to survive?’ And after having been around 127 years, you learn how to shift gears when you need to.”

Since he made the announcement Thursday, Wade said the reaction from customers has been “phenomenal.” He fielded some 175 phone and e-mail queries during business hours Thursday after making the announcement, and another 60 requests for service came in after closing time Thursday night.

In addition to milk, the company sells egg products, butter and margarine, cheese, bottled water and juices, frozen pasta and energy drinks. Deliveries will be available in Ansonia, Beacon Falls, Bridgeport, Derby, Fairfield, Middlebury, Milford, Naugatuck, Orange, Oxford, Seymour, Shelton, Southbury, Stratford, Trumbull and Westport.

There is a $20 minimum on orders and a $10 delivery fee. There is also a $6 milk crate fee on the first delivery only, provided the crates are returned on the next delivery.

Cumberland Farms, eat your heart out.

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