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Milkman Once Again Makes Home Deliveries

December 3, 1989

CHICAGO (AP) _ Local businessman Don Tomaso is milking a combination of nostalgia and convenience by offering suburbanites a taste of what life was like when dairy products were home-delivered in glass bottles.

Thousands of suburban families are returning to days of old when milk was left on the front porch.

Tomaso, his wife, Shirley, and their two sons started a home milk delivery business last spring, using direct mail advertising to pitch their product.

″We’ve been wildly successful, far beyond our wildest expectations,″ the Wisconsin businessman said.

Tomaso’s wife estimated the family has close to 1,000 customers in Chicago’s northern suburbs, who have milk in glass bottles, other dairy products and even fresh-squeezed orange juice placed in blue boxes on their porches.

Tomaso buys his products from Oberweis Dairy in Aurora, which has four other vendors delivering milk in suburban Cook and DuPage counties.

″Home milk delivery kind of died out for a long period of time, but it’s coming back, particularly to the double-income families that like the convenience of having milk delivered,″ said Elaine Oberweis, president of Oberweis Dairy.

Oberweis hung in while other small dairies and home deliverers succumbed to competition from supermarkets, government price controls and the growth of the soft-drink industry, Mrs. Oberweis said.

The company plans to expand home delivery after years of dropping sales, she said.

The milk-delivery companies say they can operate at a healthy profit. Each vendor seems to have his own system: Some sell the products at store prices but add a service charge of $1 for each delivery, while others charge 10 cents to 75 cents more per product.

Tomaso said nostalgia might be a factor in the milkman’s return, but other factors come into play as well.

″Part of the nostalia trip would be to be out there with a horse, but nostalgia only goes so far,″ he said. ″It has to taste good, too.″

Convenience appears to be a top reason for most customers.

Frank and Patricia Turkot moved to Wheaton from New York’s Long Island about six years ago and said their four children, who consume about five gallons of milk each week, made milk buying a continuous chore.

″This is a lot more convenient,″ Mrs. Turkot said of the milk delivery service. She added that she thinks the milk tastes better, too.

″I don’t know what it is,″ she said. ″I guess it’s that the cardboard has a funny taste, and with the glass bottles, you don’t get that.″