By Tom Waring
Erin Clancy-Carfagno works in administration in her dad’s ice cream and dairy distribution businesses, and heard recently from a Merion Station doctor who was working from home doing telehealth and caring for his four kids.
The family needed a variety of products, including milk, but grocery stories were putting limits on the number of items a customer could buy during the height of the coronavirus pandemic.
“I can get you six gallons of milk,” Clancy-Carfagno told the doctor.
Clancy-Carfagno, who lives in Winchester Park, considers the doctor the inspiration for her business, Philadelphia Dairy, which launched June 1.
Philadelphia Dairy has a website (philadairy.com), is on Facebook and Instagram and further spreads the word via yard signs and its four wrapped delivery vehicles.
“So far, it’s been a lot of referrals and word of mouth,” Clancy-Carfagno said.
Rick Clancy, who lives in Northern Liberties, has been in the ice cream and dairy distribution business for 44 years, including 32 years as an owner. He operates Ice Cream Direct Store Distribution and Wholesale Dairy Company, old-fashioned but very successful businesses with 47 full-time employees and 3,000 customers that generally consist of markets, restaurants and bakeries in the Philadelphia area.
Clancy’s businesses have been considered essential during the pandemic, leading some customers to ask, “Do you do home deliveries?”
That feedback helped Clancy-Carfagno to think of starting her own company. Deliveries go to Philadelphia, the suburbs and, soon, South Jersey.
“I’m getting a lot of inquiries from the Cherry Hill and Haddonfield areas,” she said. “And Trenton is a hop, skip and a jump from here.”
A graduate of St. Timothy Elementary School, she went on to be a cheerleader at St. Hubert and Penn State. She was also a gymnast at the Northeast Family YMCA.
She earned a master’s at Penn, and taught early grades for four years in Virginia and in Pottstown, in the Owen J. Roberts School District.
All the while, she was helping at her dad’s businesses, putting in a good number of hours.
As the 2016-17 school year was winding down, she decided to join her dad’s businesses full time.
“I had to make the really hard decision to leave teaching,” she said.
Clancy-Carfagno and her husband, Josh (a Father Judge graduate), have an 11-month-old daughter. She believes the organization and discipline she learned in the teaching profession are needed in the business world.
“It’s really served me well,” she said.
Philadelphia Dairy offers frozen and refrigerated items such as orange juice, eggs, butter, milk, water, iced tea, ice cream, desserts and novelties.
Most of the products come from Clover Farms in Reading. The ice cream comes from Jack & Jill, which would also be able to supply deli products, if Philadelphia Dairy expands into that market.
Clancy-Carfagno generally works out of a distribution site at 2900 Bristol Oxford Valley Road in Levittown.
There is a $20 minimum order, and a $5 delivery charge for all orders under $50. Prepayment is made by credit card after ordering online or at 267-594-4278.
Customers must be home to accept the delivery.
“It’s farm fresh,” she said of the goods.
In the early stages, all customers are given a four-pack sampler of lemonade, orange juice, milk and chocolate milk.
Clancy-Carfagno could have hired an outside company to make the deliveries, but she decided to use current employees of her dad’s companies. The drivers wear “Milkman” hats to give the delivery an old-time feel.
“I wanted to bring the nostalgic feeling back,” she said. “I wanted customers to know who was coming to their door. We’re trying to bring back the feeling of the milkman home delivering.”
While the Main Line doctor was looking for deliveries during the pandemic, Clancy-Carfagno sees families, senior citizens and people wanting what Philadelphia Dairy offers. One key to success will be repeat customers.
The businesswoman said Philadelphia Dairy prices its products to be in line with Acme and Giant. Customers will save time by avoiding crowded stores, and she promises a friendly face making the deliveries. The refrigerated and frozen products will arrive at the proper temperature.
“Buyers’ buying habits have changed,” she said. “More people are looking for time-saving solutions. It’s customer-service based, face to face and intimate. And people shouldn’t have to overpay.” ••