Kent milk dairy delivery going on 100 years

Most of us buy milk at a grocery store, but there is a dairy delivery in Kent that still runs routes directly to doorsteps, like their family has for nearly 100 years. Why they keep the one milk route that makes the least money.

KENT, Wash. By 4 a.m. every Wednesday, a milk truck sits in the dark outside a Kent dairy delivery business.

It s run by Pete Ellis, the grandson of Ben Smith, who founded a dairy delivery in the same spot in 1920.

They did every day delivery. This is on a Sunday, Ellis said, pointing to an old photograph.

Smith started with vegetables, but made more money selling milk.

Ellis grew up beside his grandfather, learning all about dairy delivery, and took the driver s seat with his own company Pete s Milk Delivery, specializing in local, high-quality dairy in the 1970s.

Today, Ellis runs nine routes and employs 10 drivers. He sells between 10,000 and 12,000 gallons of milk every week.

The route driven by Jeff Dahlquist, however, is unique.

On a ferry to Vashon Island by 6am, Dahlquist s is the only route left that still makes stops at family homes.

Deliver to the parents, then the kids, then the kids kids, Dahlquist said.

It s the main reason, Pete says, that he s still in the milk business after all these years.

The families, how many wonderful families and kids I watched grow up, Dahlquist.

One of those long-time customers is Dorothy Johnson. The 90-year old mother of five has had milk delivered to her Vashon Island home for decades.

With five children, I probably didn t find time to go get the milk, she said.

She s been a customer of Pete s delivery for more than 20 years, even though her kids are grown, her husband has passed away, and she lives alone.

I think of it as special milk, she said.

Special milk because it s delivered the way Smith intended so long ago, even when the order is so small like Ms. Johnson s three quarts, that it brings the business absolutely no profit at all.

I always say, we ll never be the biggest, but we ll try to bring you the best, Ellis said. Loving milk, loving cows and being able to bring that to families.

Pete can t quite let go of his residential delivery, which doesn t compete financially with the commercial routes.

Ms. Johnson never realized she s one of the last.

I ll keep drinking milk, she laughed.

And for customers like Johnson, Ellis plans to keep delivering milk labeled with a picture of the same 1919 Ford Model TT Truck that Ellis grandfather once drove.

Family. Quality. Believing in what you re doing. Having a passion for it, Ellis said.


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