Milking the Connections

A.B. Munroe Dairy has been delivering milk direct to people’s doors since 1881. Founder Alfred B. Munroe based his business in East Providence, but bought his dairy pasteurizing equipment from a …

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A.B. Munroe Dairy has been delivering milk direct to people’s doors since 1881. Founder Alfred B. Munroe based his business in East Providence, but bought his dairy pasteurizing equipment from a Vermont-based salesman named Robert E. Armstrong. When it was time for Munroe to retire to greener pastures, he offered the business to Armstrong who subsequently pounced on the opportunity. Since 1936, A.B. Munroe Dairy has been run by the Armstrong family, now four generations strong.

Robert E. had four children, two of whom got involved in the business – Robert C. Armstrong Sr. (“Bud”) is the retired former CEO, and Kenny Arm- strong is still working part-time in his 70s and lives on the property. Robert C. Sr.’s son – Rob Armstrong Jr. – took over as president and CEO and was for a time assisted by his wife, though both are now semi-retired. However, the Armstrong legacy continues with daughter Lindsay – Robert E.’s great-granddaughter – who works in marketing and product development.

Today, Munroe Dairy trucks are some of the most iconic and recognizable vehicles on East Bay roads. However, this was not always the case, and not everyone thought the black-and-white cow markings made for brilliant branding. Lindsay recounts: “In the early ‘80s my father and mother made a leap of faith in painting the milk trucks like cows from the standard green and white they were painted at the time. They did not tell either my grandfather or my great-grandfather and both were away at the time. The initial reaction from both was not one of acceptance, and I’m sure there were some choice words used, but as you can see it was a successful decision and most anyone in our area recognizes the cow truck.”

Lindsay notes her share of parental disagreements as well, but overall is quick to praise the idea of working with family: “It’s great! It’s very rewarding, and there’s great pride in saying you are a fourth-generation company that is still going strong and looking toward what the future brings.” While Lindsay formally started her career after college – “I started in customer service. There’s no walking into a management position and you’re not handed anything” – her exposure to the business began much earlier. “I can remember snow days as a youngster – age seven or eight – coming into the office, answering the phones and doing odd jobs for spending cash... and staying out of
mom’s hair.”

The odd jobs got a little worse as she got older: “Being the child you often get the dirty work of responding to the alarm at night and weekends, putting the wreaths on the trucks in December and shoveling and plowing.” Did starting from the bottom include cleaning out the cow stalls? “No, none of that,” she says, laughing. “Being an actual milkman is a long day and hard labor. I don’t want that job.”