End of an Era: Erie County’s last milkman making final home deliveries

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New Delhi, December 25, 2018:  It’s a bittersweet time for Hillside Dairy owner Bradley Hellert. He’s the last milkman making home deliveries in Buffalo and Erie County, and he’s making the final deliveries of his career this week.

“After many many years of delivering milk to many homes in Western New York, it’s time to hang up the milkman hat, and I’m going to retire,” Hellert told News 4 as he was about to begin his deliveries in Williamsville Sunday morning. “I’m going to take the first vacation I’ve had in 22 years.”

But, while Hellert says he’s looking forward to spending his retirement restoring an antique milk truck with his son and tackling a honey-do list from his wife that’s been building up for decades, his retirement brings mixed emotions.

“It’s sort of a sad day,” he said, “because my customers have been my friends and second family for the past 20 plus years, but it’s time.”

It’s a sad day for Hellert’s devoted customers, too. Many are elderly and don’t have someone to take them to grocery store or check in on them regularly. Most have relied on his services for decades according to wivb.com.

“It’s a heaven sent delivery. We save time in toting of milk from the grocery store. And Brad, you can always depend on him,” said one customer, Daniel Konopa, his voice getting thick with emotion as he shook Hellert’s hand after the final milk delivery to his home. “We wait for him, you know.” Now, this whole chapter is closing.

“Hoover’s Dairy in Sanborn now will be the last dairy in the area that does home delivery in Niagara County ,” Hellert pointed out. “and actually there are not many dairy companies left in New York State.”

Hellert comes from a long line of milkmen in Western New York. “My family goes back actually 103 years in the dairy business when my grandfather started in Akron, New York,” Hellert says.

That original dairy was sold to H. Morton Perry, the founder of Perry’s Ice Cream, in 1918.

Hellert’s grandfather got back in the dairy business himself in 1922, running it with his family until 1979 when it was acquired by a different company.

“I was a young man in college. I wasn’t really interested in being a milkman. But after 20 years of being away from it, I decided I wanted to go back into it, and I bought [Hillside Dairy] in 1998 and have had fun ever since,” Hellert said.

When Hellert took over Hillside Dairy, he carried on a business that had been started more than six decades before.

Now, the traditions he’s been carrying on since then, right down to using the milk chutes on the homes that are still equipped with them, will end with his career.

“The last 20 years, I haven’t really worked a day,” he told News 4. “I’ve enjoyed every day that I’ve done it, with a few weather exceptions along the way.”

Moving forward, you’ll only ever see Hellert’s Hillside Dairy delivery trucks in parades. His milkman days and delivery service are a thing of the past.

And Hellert says he’s grateful for all of the customers who have made his business what it’s been over the years.

“I’m going to miss all of you,” Hellert said when asked about his final message to his customers. “You’ve been wonderful to me and my family and we’ll miss you.” Hellert calls his customers “the cream of the crop.”

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