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The milkman is history, but trucks still carry meals to your doorstep

I can remember standing at my father's knee as a little kid and listening to a sales pitch in our living room.

He sat on an old Naugahyde couch with my reluctant mom and listened to the insurance guy or the vacuum cleaner guy or my favorite, the Fuller Brush man.

Always a super-friendly guy, my dad invited anybody in who promised to make his life easier. Back then, door-to-door salesmen canvassed the neighborhood, and the Borden's Dairy man left milk on the front porch (and eggnog during the holidays).

I feel like I'm talking about the dinosaur age, and in a way I am. Face it, you just don't find too many folks coming to your door, save for those kids trying to sell enough magazine subscriptions to go to college.

At least one company, however, continues to thrive with such throwback service.

Schwan's delivers food to your door. All kinds of food: chicken and pasta dinners, steaks, chicken breasts, enchiladas, ice cream, pizza, breakfast sandwiches.

Marvin Schwan started the company back in 1952 driving his family's homemade ice cream to rural parts of Minnesota in a beat-up 1946 Dodge panel van.

Today, Schwan's delivers its menagerie of products in all 48 continental states. It has three local depots — Clearwater, Dade City and Lakeland — that service an estimated 17,000 customers.

You've probably seen the yellow freezer trucks, which always keep the flash-frozen food at 21 degrees below zero, rolling through your neighborhood. Essentially, they're ice cream trucks for adults. The vacuum-packed chicken breasts are a top seller, but everything I saw during a recent visit to Schwan's Clearwater operation looked good.

What drew me to Schwan's? My inferior cooking skills are being put to the test this fall because my wife and kids routinely attend football/cheerleading practice in the evening, leaving me at home.

While I would prefer just to lounge through episodes of Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy and wait for my wife/cheer-parent to come home and cook, she has made it clear I need to cook.

The fast-food run quickly got old, and while I occasionally cobble together meals from grocery store visits (Eggos and Pop Tarts can constitute a meal) and trips to the HoneyBaked Ham Store (you can buy it by the pound), I'm searching for more ideas high in quality and low on effort.

Hey, you're talking about somebody who burns water.

Naturally, convenience is one of Schwan's selling points. You can place an order online or over the telephone, and have it delivered at a time when you expect to be home. If you can't be there to greet them, they leave your order in a freezer bag on the doorstep.

Barney Schulte, the general manager in Clearwater, said that when he made deliveries in the Midwest, some customers would leave the key under the mat and have him go in the house and load the freezer.

That works in Wisconsin. Florida? I'm not so sure.

Anyway, I sampled the chicken alfredo with broccoli and peas, along with some five-cheese garlic toast, and came away impressed. And it took only a few minutes in the microwave.

I'm not ready to give up completely on the grocery store, but I'm intrigued with adding Schwan's to the mix.

You can learn more at

That's all I'm saying.

The milkman is history, but trucks still carry meals to your doorstep 08/28/09 [Last modified: Friday, August 28, 2009 9:41pm]
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