The Milkman Cometh

When you call Suncrest Farms, a cow answers—a recorded moo, actually, followed by a friendly voice saying, “At Suncrest Farms, the cows get excited every time the phone rings.” And it is ringing more often than ever.

In a bygone age, the loveliest morning music was the clink of milk bottles at the front door and the reassuring thwap of the lid on the galvanized metal box. Well, those days are back.

For Ed Seabridge, 55, owner of Suncrest Farms in Totowa, the old days never went away. In 1971, he took over his father’s business, which now boasts 2,000 customers. “Now is probably our peak,” he says. “People are busier and they want the service.” At about 1 am each weekday, he and his drivers set out in their four nostalgic cream-colored trucks, delivering fresh milk, eggs, and cheese to homes in Essex, Passaic, and Bergen counties. Prices run about ten cents a half gallon higher than in supermarkets. “People say they save money because they don’t impulse buy like at the store,” he says.

Like Seacrest, Bey Ley Dairy of Toms River gets its milk from dairy farms in Pennsylvania. Tim Sutton, owner of Bey Ley, handles 2,800 regulars with 12 employees and six trucks that roam Monmouth and Ocean counties. “It is a service-oriented business and a lot of people don’t know it exists,” Sutton says. “People pay a little extra because they can count on it.” He says the customer load goes up and down as older people retire, new residents move in, and tastes change. “It is constant turnover,” he says. “Sometimes I use a solicitor who goes door to door to get business.”

Seabridge’s clientele includes some members of the New Jersey Devils. “One of them would leave hockey tickets in the delivery box,” Seabridge recalls. “I had a delivery person get a signed hockey stick one Christmas.”

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