United Dairies and Dairy Fresh were Jewish-owned and created nearly a century ago.
Two recent communications led to this Looking Back. I had a conversation with Al Must, former president of Dairy Fresh Foods, that was a quick lesson about the dairy business, and Daniel Szymanski wrote seeking information about United Dairies, where his grandfather worked and his father, George, was production manager.
So, I decided to see what I could find about these two companies in the William Davidson Digital Archive of Jewish Detroit History. In short, both United Dairies and Dairy Fresh were Jewish-owned and created nearly a century ago. Both companies also featured generations of family members as owners and chief operating officers.
United Dairies was founded in 1929. I found 643 pages in the Archive that mentioned United Dairies, largely advertisements, especially abundant in Jewish Chronicle and JN, 1930-1970, but did not find a company history. However, I was able to glean a few facts.
United Dairies was originally founded and owned by 20 Jewish dairy truck drivers; hence, the “United” in United Dairies. Four of the original owners were Edwin Gornbein, Morris Gurevitch, Israel Sokanoff and Max Weiss. It seems that Gurevitch was also president of the company at one time.
The Weiss family was most closely associated with United Dairies. Max Weiss was general manager of the firm from 1932-1949. His wife, Julie, who lived to 100 years old, was also on the United Dairies board and a company officer. His son, Albert “Sonny” Weiss, a veteran of the famous Battle of the Bulge during World War II, also worked at United Dairies. His obituary cites him as the owner of United Dairies. Max’s grandson, Steven David Weiss, also went into the dairy business. There was a clue that suggested that United Dairies may have been sold to Detroit-area Twin Pines Dairy sometime around 1990, but I am not really sure if this is accurate.
Dairy Fresh also had a long history in Detroit. An excellent feature story on the company and its owners, the Must family, can be found in the Dec. 11, 2008, issue of the JN. The company was founded as the Detroit City Dairy by Abraham Must in the 1930s.
The three generations that followed Max continued to own and manage the business until it was sold in 2017. His son, Mike, took over the company in the 1940s; his wife, Mary, worked there for nearly 70 years. Mike’s sons, Alan and Joel, became co-presidents, and Jay represented the fourth generation. Along the way, the Detroit City Dairy was renamed Dairy Fresh in the 1990s.
Both dairies and families were generous supporters of Detroit Jewish organizations. United Dairies sponsored such programs as Israel Bond Drives, youth bowling leagues, and the “Voice of the Jewish Welfare Fund” on WJLB radio. Dairy Fresh sponsored the Israel Emergency Fund, as well as Kadima, Hebrew Free Loan and other good causes.
The history of the United Dairies and Dairy Fresh, a.k.a. Detroit City Dairy, that I did find was fascinating. It was a fun search. Of course, there may have been other Jewish-owned dairies in Metro Detroit, so another adventure in the Davidson Archive might await.
Want to learn more? Go to the DJN Foundation archives, available free at www.djnfoundation.org.