Capturing the culture that makes Detroit what it is.

Driving for Dairy Fresh Foods

in My Detroit Story by

In 2004 I began a career as a truck driver.

My father is a CPA. For over 30 years he’s developed an entrepreneurial practice focused primarily on developing computer programs that handle tax, accounting, manufacturing, and staffing needs for businesses. Along with developing this expertise my father has built the practice of Greg Frazier CPA with long standing relationships of individual, corporate, and non-profit corporate tax return clients.

In 2003 he offered me an opportunity to work along-side him preparing tax returns. To learn tax preparation I attended Lewis College of Business for Accounting, and H&R Block’s tax preparation course.

After attending H&R Block’s tax preparation course in Southfield MI I worked a tax season at H&R Block in Northland Mall. While working at H&R Block in Northland Mall, I learned the amount of money jobs paid annually. Teachers, fast-food workers, retirees, plant workers, and retail sales people all had me preparing their taxes. Truck drivers stood out to me. Everyday I’d find some guy my age wearing Girbaud jeans, Timbaland boots, and Champion hoodies earning over $40,000 a year. I was jealous of every one of them.

In 2003 my passion was in hip-hop music. When I saw guys my age dressed in hip-hop earning $40,000 annually I easily made a decision to become a truck driver. This was against my father’s better judgment. I finished out the 2004 tax season working for H&R Block. After tax season I worked part-time at Pizza Hut in Dearborn Heights MI delivering pizzas. Earning the $2,500 down payment for trucking school from minimum wage work is one of the most disciplined acts I’ve ever accomplished.

Mexican Fiesta Restaurant, Honeybee Market, Kai Sun Market
Mexican Fiesta Restaurant, Honeybee Market, Kai Sun Market

Completing trucking school I learned how to operate an 18 wheeler. I got my CDL/ Hazmat driver’s license (I still have it today; it’s my worst case scenario life circumstance). I began working for Werner Frieght Trucking based in Ohio. I worked for Werner for 3 months, and returned home. Upon returning home I was hired by Dairy Fresh Foods.

Dairy Fresh Foods is a local food distributor founded in Highland Park MI. Dairy Fresh Foods is now based in Taylor MI. Monday to Friday I drove to Taylor MI beginning my day at 5:30am. I generally wrapped up my day at 5:30pm. The traffic usually added an hour or two to every work day.

Dairy Fresh Foods is a family based business run by Joel Must. The influence of the family and Jewish culture were very prevalent throughout Dairy Fresh Foods. Dairy Fresh Foods facility was organized with freezer warehousing, refrigerator warehousing, dry-good warehousing, and truck docks. Drivers worked days, and warehouse loaders worked nights. Every morning at 5:30am (before summer’s sun rise) I generally picked up truck 2548. (FYI: the summer of 2005 the music I was playing was Mike Jones, The Game’s Documentary, and Mariah Carey’s Emancipation of Mimi. I’d be in my truck turning down Mariah Carey’s ‘Shake it Off’ at red lights in the fear of being laughed at by others in traffic).

Dairy Fresh Foods relates to Detroit internationally, because Detroit has a diverse mix of restaurants and markets. My first day working at Dairy Fresh Foods I delivered food to Hamtramck MI. I was trained by Anton. Anton’s family lived in Hamtramck. His parents were first generation immigrants from Croatia. Seeing the way Anton related to the store owners in Hamtramck MI made me feel out of place. It was the opposite of ‘Perfect Strangers’ (1980’s television show I loved as kid). Miles away from my Detroit neighborhood was a world I knew nothing of. The markets in Hamtramck were filled with spices, foods, meats, and snacks I’ve never seen. Most notably in Hamtramck was a mix of chocolate candies from different European nations. German, Romanian, British, and French chocolates all have specific tastes I learned to understand.

While delivering food for Dairy Fresh Foods, I believe I went in every grocery store within a 50 mile radius of Detroit. As expected the Middle Eastern markets of Dearborn had a unique flavor. I remember many of the Middle Eastern markets keeping a stock of fresh dates, raisins, and nuts. The restaurants bought many of the premium cheeses that Italian and Greek restaurants carried as well. This commonality is sensible being that the Lebanese, Italian, and Greek restaurants all were founded in the Mediterranean.

The well known Mexican influence throughout Southwest Detroit had me delivering loads of cheeses, rice, and lard in Southwest Detroit. Dairy Fresh packaged 80lbs bags of rice and 40lbs blocks of Muenster cheese which stocked Xochimilco’s, Armando’s, and Mexican Town restaurants bi-weekly. All provide great food and service. I found my favorite Spanish restaurant in the Metro-Detroit area to be Mexican Fiesta on Ford Rd and Telegraph in Dearborn Heights MI. The Alvarado family that runs the restaurant was very kind, and always supportive of me.

Unique markets that specialized in specific food also exist in the Metro-Detroit area. Oak Park MI has a number of store fronts catered to Jewish cooking. The baked goods from all of these stores are exceptional. If you ever have the chance to buy an asiago bagel from a Jewish bakery I urge of you to enjoy the pleasure.

Troy MI, and Madison Heights MI, have a mix of Asian markets carrying mixes of sauces and spices. Today Sriracho is very popular. I’ve used and known of this Sriracho hot sauce for years, because of these Asian markets.

Westborn Market, Hiller's Market, Jug Juice
Westborn Market, Hiller’s Market, Jug Juice

The most interesting thing I observed delivering food was the way markets were kept dependent upon neighborhood. Naturally there were disparities due to wealth of the residency, but also in types of foods as well. Traveling the throughout Michigan closer to Mackinaw I found the farm based markets used the cook trend that’s brought Whole Food’s to prominence. Cooks managed stock and prepared meals for families. The markets in Birmingham MI were different than those in Ann Arbor MI. Comparable in regional wealth Birmingham carried larger stocks as opposed to the smaller store front feel of the Ann Arbor markets.

I believe the most well kept market I traveled to was Westborn market in Dearborn MI on Michigan Ave. The store manager was from Trinidad. He was the most observant, concerned, and thorough market manager I met while delivering food. Every delivery to Westborn market in Dearborn required a series of checks. Also in this process I witnessed the wash, care, and keep of vegetables, fruits, and produce. Other markets I remember being well-kept throughout the region were every Hiller’s market, Honey Bee market in Southwest Detroit, and Western Market in Ferndale MI.

Dairy Fresh Foods also carried unhealthy snacks. Liquor stores and party stores stocked up on jug juices, freeze pops, and pork rinds. Stores carrying these items were usually in the most impoverished neighborhoods in the region. The liquor stores in Detroit MI’s: Brightmoor, Mack & Bewick, John R & 75, East McNichols; Inkster MI; and Pontiac MI (far from Auburn Hills MI) all carried tons of jug juice. Jug juices are the small plastic juices with the wheel barrel design flavored by color as opposed to taste. These red, purple, green, and orange juices are found on the bottom shelf of soda pop refrigerators in liquor stores.

It would be such a duality to begin the day in Dearborn Heights MI, travel to a farm in Midland MI, and close my day on 7 mile and Hubbell in Detroit MI. In delivering foods I saw how similar people and cultures are. Also I had the chance to travel Michigan.

Michigan is a very beautiful state. I encourage everyone to visit Alpena MI, Traverse City MI, or Sault Ste Marie MI in the summer and/or fall seasons.

I believe Metro Detroit is a segregated region culturally for many reasons. Overall I feel people find a level of comfort in who and what they are use to. This segregation has developed world’s of cultural experiences with restaurants and markets. If you’re willing exit your comfort zone you can experience great food throughout Metro Detroit. I challenge everyone to visit a restaurant of the world based in Detroit.

FYI: I’ve often been asked about the cleanliness and safety of markets throughout the Metro-Detroit region and what markets I suggest buying food from. As a standard I believe you should not buy vegetables, fruits, or meats from any store with a Lotto machine.

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