With a grocery or convenience store on practically every corner, a milkman could be considered as passe as a 5-cent ice cream cone.
Yet their ranks are growing. As frigid temperatures keep Utahns indoors, local milk deliverers offer more varied items to Wasatch area households."Usually on a good, cold day we sell a bit more," said Gordon M. Liddle, president of Winder Dairy, the biggest local business making home deliveries. Two or three independent businessmen recently began marketing dairy products door-to-door.
Rhone Udell, who operates the MooMobile in Sandy and Draper, said he's had an increase in both customers and sales. "I am still so small that I am seeing a steady increase in customers. But they are definitely buying more because of the cold weather," he said.
Local convenience stores and drive-through milk depots also see an upswing in sales during the winter. But their gains don't mean losses for major grocery stores.
"Everyone needs milk; everyone is going to buy it," said one Albertson's manager.
After more than 110 years in business, Winder has a lot to sell.
The West Valley-based company expanded its product line to include much more than milk, cheese, yogurt and butter.
Winder recently added a cereal line to its selection of products, which already included eggs, hashbrowns, hamburger, sausage, bacon, apples, oranges, celery and carrot sticks.
Need dishwasher or laundry detergent? Call Winder. Ditto for bread - buttermilk, white, whole wheat, cracked wheat, 10-grain and oat bran.
The dairy also delivers several types of juices, including "Beep" - a mixture of nine different juices. It's one of the big sellers among Winder's more than 20,000 customers from Brigham City to Payson.
"We've seen a 100 percent increase in customers in the past five years," Liddle said. He attributes the company's growth to two main factors: an expanded product line and convenient, quality service.
"There are a lot of people who like that service, because it really is a service. You may pay a little more for your product, but it's being delivered to your door," said Gordon Evans, company purchasing agent.
Winder's delivery trucks are on the road every day except Sunday, making at least two deliveries a week to most households. Some residents with large families and little storage space see their milk deliverer daily.
Long-term friendships have developed.
"A lot of people give the drivers a key to their home, and they just stock the refrigerator - feeding the dog and cat in the process," Evans said. "Some of the friendships have lasted for years and years, long after the driver retires."
Although few doctors still make house calls, Winder's milkmen answer emergency calls throughout the day.
Two special milkmen respond in the afternoons to calls from customers whose orders weren't fully served in the morning run. Other complaints are answered by management, who've been known to drop off goods on their way home from work.
Liddle said the number of Winder's customers doesn't increase during winter months. But when the mercury drops, customers already on line buy much more from their milk deliverer.
During 1990, Utahns paid more for milk - no matter where they bought it. Although Utah is self-sufficient - it produces enough milk to meet residents' needs - prices are set by the Wisconsin-Minnesota market, according to local dairy farmers. When Eastern and Midwest-ern states experienced a shortage, the price of milk in Utah stores increased 15 percent to 20 percent - 20-40 cents a gallon.
However, local grocery store managers said prices during the past three months have stabilized, with a gallon of milk now ranging in price from $1.98 to $2.17.
Despite the "extra" charged for home delivery, Liddle believes Winder's costs are still competitive with local grocery stores. "We can't meet grocery stores' special bargain prices for milk, but we are competitive when all cost factors are considered such as travel costs, value of time and impulse buying that often occurs in supermarkets - especially if you are there with four hungry kids just before dinner," Liddle said.
But what effect does the cold have on some home-delivered items?
Liddle said they're placed in an insulated box that prevents liquid items from freezing for a few hours. That is, unless temperatures plummet to 20 degrees below zero.