The first thing you notice as you arrive at Hy-Point Dairy in Brandywine Hundred is the lack of cows (although we’re told that will be rectified soon with a mural on one of the barns). But as you approach the family home whose back porch where President Jay Meany’s grandmother washed bottles back in 1919, you know this is a place that epitomizes the idea of family-owned businesses.
“Grandpop gets the credit, but grandma did most of the work,” said Jay Meany with a grin.
He also debunks that no-cow observation, pointing out that the 7,500-gallon tankers waiting to be unloaded are “our cows.”
Back in 1919, the J.A. Meany farm produced 48 quarts of milk that was so fresh the cream rose to the top and deliveries were confined to nearby Wilmington in the days before pasteurization. By the 1930s and 1940, there were 164 dairies in Delaware, all loading milk into cans that lasted a day or two. And by the 1940s, the Meanys were feeling a bit of pressure due to their Roman Catholic background and changed the name of the dairy to Hy-Point to reflect Delaware’s highest point on nearby Ebright Road.
Today, Hy-point is the last remaining dairy of some 200 Delaware family farms that were in operation when the Meany’s opened their doors.
“My grandfather and uncle taught me the business,” says Meany. “My father died in January 1964 and we had cows until March before we sold them and started buying milk from other farms.”
Jay says Hy-Point has expanded gradually and slowly. His Uncle John taught him not to spend money you don’t have, and Hy-Point didn’t borrow until recently in anticipation of a solar project that will kick off this summer that requires an addition to their building. “If someone asked you for a payment, you wrote them a check,” he says.
The company has 54 routes that deliver 30,000-40,000 gallons of processed milk every day. “It goes from cow to bottle in under 36 hours, including testing, standardizing, homogenizing, pasteurizing, and filling the bottle,”
he says with pride.
Like many of the FOBA honorees, the 60-year-old Meany recalls working for the family business at an early age. He was paid a quarter to help truckers back up and unload empty glass bottles. He was driving around the farm at age 9 and 10.
Back in the 1980s, Hy-Point was just delivering milk but then added other products, including eggs, butter, cheeses, soup, salads, and yogurts, serving predominantly mom and pop stores. They ultimately diversified to ice-cream stands and expanded to Giant and Food Lion in Lewes and started delivering to Shoprite in the past week.
One of the company’s milestones came in 2012 when Hy-Point merged with the only other remaining dairy in Delaware, Lewes Dairy. The company suffered a great loss recently with the April 18 passing of former Lewes Dairy President Chip Brittingham, a death that left Jay Meany choked up during a recent interview.
Meany says more than 50 percent of Hy-Point’s 110 employees have been with the company for at least 25 years, and five have been there for 40 years.
Hy-Point takes its responsibilities to the community very seriously.
“If we hear about a child in the hospital who loves our chocolate milk, we’ll deliver it to him,” Meany says. “We stopped home delivery in 1974 but continued to deliver to one long-time customer until 1982.”
Jay still delivers milk on Saturday or Sunday, and often takes customer calls without identifying himself. He continues to work seven days a week even after a recent ankle replacement (“Chip was my idol; he worked seven days a week even after we acquired Lewes Dairy.”). And the company provides refrigeration units to schools and retailers, and freezers to stores that sell its ice cream.
– By Peter Osborne