Doug Birdt remembers fondly the days when his mother would send him to retrieve the family’s milk from a metal box outside their Long Island home.
It was always there, something he could count on, thanks to an early-morning delivery from the milkman.
“I loved it. It was just a thrill to get it and bring it inside,” he said. “It’s the big event when you’re a kid, to get the milk.”
These days, Birdt, 49, is the milkman.
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He runs Doorstep Dairy & Desserts, a new Wake Forest-based business that aims to bring back a tradition that many of his customers thought had long since disappeared.
The company delivers milk, cheese, eggs and desserts made in North Carolina once per week to customers who place their orders online.
Birdt has a puffy white cap emblazoned with the word MILKMAN he will don to fully look the part of a delivery man of yore. But his milk truck is a green minivan, and he delivers to coolers customers leave on their porches rather than to the insulated metal boxes that once lined delivery routes.
Doorstep Dairy & Desserts launched just a few weeks ago and already counts 100 families among its customers in Wake Forest, Rolesville, Raleigh and other Wake County towns as far away as Apex or Knightdale.
When Birdt started thinking about ideas for a new business earlier this year, dairy delivery quickly rose to the top of the list. The produce delivery market seemed too saturated, but no one locally had brought back the milkman.
After eight months of planning, Birdt, who has a background in sales, was ready to go.
“I like the challenge of figuring out how to market it and get it out to people,” he said.
Birdt works with a team of part-time drivers to deliver orders, but he recently made a run of his own, with a GPS calling out directions over the steady hum of Top 40 from the radio.
At each stop, Birdt filled orders from the large white coolers that run the width of the van. He packed each into a crate then hustled to the porch or deck to drop off the goods. Along the way, he chatted with a few homeowners and waved at a few babies, his milkman cap bobbing along as he went.
Since he began taking orders, Birdt has worked on a package system. For $27, a customer can order two milk options, eggs, cheese and a dessert. For $34, they can add another milk and cheese.
He plans to switch to a points system soon to better accommodate the combinations customers are most interested in.
Birdt is betting that customers will continue to place orders, for both the chance to support local products and the convenience of having staples reliably delivered to their home.
“We’re the only ones who actually bring it to your doorstep in person,” he said.