Tom and Therese Rubino started their business with only a dozen customers in 1994, after falling into an opportunity that just seemed to fit them. “We started to have grandkids, and we were concerned with where food was coming from, and I ended up hearing about a milkman who I thought was selling his truck,” Tom recalls. After Tom had a discussion with the milkman, who turned out to be retiring, and heard about his dozen-or-so customers, he says, “I kind of started a business, although we didn’t end up getting the truck.” Nineteen years and lots of word-of-mouth by fiercely loyal customers later, the Yorktown couple has turned Hudson Milk into a booming home-delivery business that serves about 1,000 customers.
The Rubinos modeled Hudson Milk in part after the butcher shop that Tom’s father ran in Manhattan. “We’ve always kept it as a mom-and-pop operation,” Tom says. “That was very important to us—that commitment to a personalized, old-fashioned type of model from when I grew up.”
Operating out of Shrub Oak, the Yorktown hamlet where the Rubinos raised their family, Hudson Milk has three trucks on the road and employs six people. The company, which originally delivered just milk in glass bottles, started delivering a host of other dairy products, such as butter, cheese, and yogurt, in 2000. After Tom had back surgery in 2006 and couldn’t make deliveries, “I was kind of forced to hire someone to help out.” So with a new driver on the road, Tom and his wife were able to focus more on growing the customer base and sourcing new products. As a result, in 2008, locally sourced meat, poultry, and frozen vegetables began making their way onto the list of Hudson Milk’s deliverables.
“We’re extremely proud of all our products,” Tom says. Hudson Milk’s offerings come from traditional and grass-fed farms—along with a few organic farms—where there are no added growth hormones and the fields aren’t sprayed with any pesticides or insecticides. Hudson Milk makes it a point to source from farmers whose products are not genetically modified and other small, local purveyors. “We have a hot sauce from Connecticut, from a husband-and-wife team—it fits in well with our business model,” says Tom.
It truly is a family enterprise: One of the couple’s sons, Tom Jr., came aboard two years ago and has helped the company branch out and pick up commercial customers including The Peekskill Coffee House and Lighthouse Ice Cream and Coffee Kompanies in Tarrytown.
While the farm-to-table movement has been hugely popular in Westchester for some time, Tom Jr. feels that Hudson Milk’s success is due in large part to its values. “I think people also genuinely want to support small business and want to support family business,” he says.
“They’re kind of a flash from the past,” says Kim Jacobs, executive director of Community Capital New York, which provides loans to small businesses—including Hudson Milk in 2011 to help it expand.
“They care so much about the quality and origin of the foods that they offer. They’re great for our local economy; they’re a really terrific story.”
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