The old Virginia Dairy Co. building may be cranking out art instead of milk these days, but Richmonders who can’t remember the days of dawn milk delivery are about to get a taste of what it was like in May — updated for the 21st century. Oberweis Dairy, an Illinois-based company, started operating in Hampton Roads in 2009 and announced last week that it was expanding to Richmond. Although the milk will still come in traditional glass bottles, customers can order through the Oberweis website or download an app to manage delivery with their smartphones. Style gave owner Joe Oberweis a call to find out what we can expect.
Style: Tell me a little about your company. It’s a family company, isn’t it? When did it start?
Joe Oberweis: I’m fourth generation — we’ve been around 90 years. My great-grandfather, Peter, was a dairy farmer — home delivery has always been a significant part of what we do, literally going back to the day we started in 1927.
Your company is growing nationally — why did you think it was the time for milk delivery to come back?
Well, it really hasn’t gone away. We’ve been in this business nonstop for 90 years and as far as bringing it back to Richmond, it wasn’t so much bringing it back as identifying [the market]. I think there really seems to be a good fit between [your] part of the country and our business. You become a little more integrated into your customers’ lives than you do selling products in a grocery store. You get to know the families.
- Ernie Wilson, a longtime home delivery driver who retired a few years ago, shows off one of the cows at an Oberweis farm.
Can you tell me about the farms you work with and the milk that’s produced?
We source all our milk from small-herd family farms. And what we love is that these families know the cows by name. When you go and see the care and the degree to which these people know their animals, it’s no surprise that the milk they produce for us is so good. We start off with a measurably higher quality milk and then we try to treat it as gently as we can. We don’t do ultra-high-temperature pasteurization. Companies that do that are just trying to pump out as much milk as they can and get it on the shelf.
How will delivery work?
We’ve certainly modernized what we do and how we do it. But the basics of it are all pretty similar to what we did decades ago. Customers maintain a standing order. [You] know the day of delivery [and] you have a porch box on your front steps. To make changes to your order, you can use our website or call the customer service team up to 10 p.m. the night before your delivery. There are many, many other products that we offer besides milk — orange juice, eggs, yogurt, a lot of breakfast items — but there’s all kinds of other stuff as well.
Are your products going to be from Virginia or are they coming from the Midwest?
They come from all over. What we really work towards is finding the best tasting products that we possibly can. Any product that we sell or make, taste is unequivocally the number one priority.