Pandemic is beefing up demand for milk delivery business

Cow Belle’s van is being heavily used to keep up with deliveries during the coronavirus pandemic. PHOTO/SUBMITTED –

Angie Rondolet had what she thought was a pretty good business idea back in 2016. She saw the growing interest in farm fresh and organic foods. She also saw how difficult it could be for busy professionals to access the products they wanted, like fresh milk.

“It isn’t easy access unless you drive out to these little farms,” she said.

She recalled the milk deliveries her family received when she was a girl growing up in Europe and decided to revive the old-time practice of milk delivery. So, she picks up fresh, glass-bottled milk at Monroe County-area farms and delivers it to families in the Monroe, Lehigh and Northampton areas. She called her delivery business Cow Belle. She began by delivering milk from a seventh-generation dairy farm that is animal welfare certified.

Her idea was a hit and she quickly grew her customer base with loyal customers who began asking for her to begin delivering other farm-fresh products.

Until about three weeks ago the business was steadily growing, she was adding those requested items like juices, honey, bread, chicken and pork. She was even looking at buying a second van, and hiring someone to help with deliveries. Maybe adding a partner to help the business grow.

“Then everything just changed,” Rondolet said.

Instead of having to shut down like many businesses, she saw an explosion in the demand for her deliveries, especially from people sheltering at home and people who are immunocompromised and want to avoid grocery stores.

“People were Googling ‘milk delivery’ and I came up and now we’re just slammed,” she said.

Instead of the normal 120 to 160 deliveries Cow Belle would normally make in a week, her business is now making 325 deliveries a week – a little bit more than she was set up to handle.

And while many people would be happy to be “too busy” right now, Rondolet said it’s a challenge, because she simply can’t help everyone, and there’s so many people in need.

“I have a woman and she’s pregnant and she’s a half hour away. She called me and asked me to deliver milk. She said she’d tip me, that she’d make it worth my while, but that’s not it,” Rondolet said.

She said she’s doing her best – her husband is even making deliveries now – but she can only add so many customers and still service her regulars.

She is also out of some items, like flour, which has been in high demand.

Milk, however, she has plenty of.

“The cows have to keep giving milk,” she said.

Between being so busy, and the restrictions on interacting during the coronavirus pandemic it has taken some of what she’s loved out of the job.

“I can’t stop and talk to everyone like I usually do, and the kids just wave from the window. It’s sad,” she said.

She said she knows the extraordinary demand is likely temporary, though she’s already heard from many new clients that they like the service and want to continue. So that, and the growth trajectory her business was already on before the coronavirus hit, shows her she needs to start thinking growth and acting on it.

So if anyone has a good van and likes cows, Rondolet said she’s up for talking business.

“Email me,” she said. “We can discuss details.”

Her email, for the record, is cowbelle@ptd.net.

Writer Stacy Wescoe has her finger on the pulse of the business community in the Greater Lehigh Valley and keeps you up-to-date with technology and trends, plus what coworkers and competitors are talking about around the water cooler — and on social media. She can be reached at swescoe@bridgetowermedia.com or 610-807-9619, ext. 4104. Follow her on Twitter and on Facebook.

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