By Brittni Henderson
After nearly 100 years, a beloved family-owned business in Rhode Island is delivering its last glass bottle of milk. Christiansen’s Dairy, the popular fine milk and dairy delivery service has spent generations perfecting its family-oriented business to be friendly, affordable, and loving.
Christian Christiansen first opened the dairy in 1910 on a small farm on Cottage Street in North Providence. Starting with horse and carriage distribution, Christiansen would provide his customers with milk and other dairy products to feed their families.
Erika Christiansen-Allard and Britt Christiansen-Seugling, daughters of current owner Jay Christiansen, say that this is very bittersweet time for their family, but know that their family’s business will remain in the hearts of customers for the rest of their lives. The dairy was a major part of their childhood, as they were often sidekicks with their father on his routes, a helping hand washing the trucks, or bringing friends to the dairy on field trips.
“It was so cool having a milkman as a dad,” shares Erika. “It gave me a new perspective. We’ve been able to see all of the hard work he’s put in over the years, all of the blood, sweat, and tears that go into this business.”
After their Great-Great Grandfather passed away, their Great Grandfather Alfred Christiansen carried on the heritage. He purchased the property that now homes the dairy on Smith Street in North Providence. The next in line was their Grandfather John Christiansen, and finally their father Jay Christiansen.
When Jay took over at the helm, he promised his father John that he would keep the age-old practices the same. While some may say that they’re outdated, the family says that they’re, instead, holding on to the authentic roots of this truly homegrown and traditional family business. It’s simple, old-fashioned, and has become more than just a delivery company. Although times have changed drastically from horse and carriage days, the Christiansen Family remained steadfast in their mission to stay true to what their business is all about.
For many customers, their children were raised drinking Christiansen’s milk. Family dogs look forward to barking at the milkman through the window. The distinct silver box sits on the front steps of over 1,000 homes in Rhode Island. Four milkmen embark upon their routes each week, to ensure that customers get not only milk, but also other things like seasonal eggnog, lemonade, fruit punch, and many other food items. Most importantly, they deliver the same heartfelt experience that started almost a century ago.
Richard “Dickie” Leveille worked for Christiansen’s Dairy for 20 years, starting when Jay’s father John was in charge. Even after retirement, Leveille would still come to the dairy two to three times a week to spend time with the employees, help load trucks, and be around the positive environment that was always present there.
“Christiansen’s was a great place to work. It was the best job I’ve ever had.” says Levielle. “I’ve never met so many nice people in my life. Along my routes, everyone was just great! It is sad that they’re closing, but the time has come. The Christiansens and their customers are great, great people.”
At the dairy, the day started at 4:00 am for Jay Christiansen. He spent most of his days there ensuring that everything ran smoothly, but now his family is his priority.
“Our dad would do anything for anyone,” Jay’s daughters say. “Milkmen are so few and far between, and we’re proud that out father carried out the legacy for so many years. Also, if it weren’t for the customers, there would be no Christiansen’s. We are all so very thankful.”
As of March 2019, Christiansen’s Dairy is closed. Much of the equipment inside the building is original but in great condition. As the clean out process continues, equipment—including the iconic milk trucks—will be for sale. Customers can hold on to their milk bottles and milk boxes if they wish. If not, the family asks that you please recycle them accordingly.
According to a letter that was distributed to all customers, Munroe Dairy is welcoming all customers of Christiansen’s if they’d like to continue milk delivery service.
The Christiansen Family is truly grateful for your business over the years—from every corner of Rhode Island, you’ve all become a part of the family.