The beloved market itself is not reopening; with the Bay Area's current public health mandates, wandering through the narrow aisles searching for cheese or smelling fresh fruit in the open-air produce section feels like a distant reality.
Instead, the Milk Pail returned on Friday as a no-contact, drive-through market. People can order online pre-selected boxes of cheese, local bread and other specialty goods and pick them up at The Milk Pail's warehouse on Wyandotte Street in Mountain View. Masked and gloved staff put the boxes in the trunks of people's cars.
"I felt like the the revival of the Milk Pail would be very timely now during a time when people are probably cooped up at home, bored of what they have in their pantry and fridge and so desperately miss a sense of comfort," said Kai Rasmussen, who helped her father, Steve, run the market. "Even without this situation, people were feeling a huge loss for the store."
Kai Rasmussen holds a curated basket of products available for pickup at a new drive-through version of the Milk Pail Market. Photo by Elena Pronina.
The Milk Pail closed last summer after Steve Rasmussen accepted a buyout for the property at the corner of San Antonio Road and California Street. He had long been a holdout as the San Antonio shopping center was transformed by redevelopment -- a massive apartment complex, movie theater, chain restaurants and hotel were eventually built around the humble community market.
Kai said before the closure, her family had been thinking about using the Milk Pail's warehouse for a pop-up market, but it didn't pan out at the time. She went back to the University of California at Berkeley to finish her bachelor's degree, which had been delayed while she helped manage the family business.
Milk Pail Market owner Steve Rasmussen talks to longtime customer Leane Reelfs about citrus varieties in 2014. Photo by Michelle Le.
Then, in late March, with the Bay Area's stay-at-home order in effect, Kai posted a survey to the Milk Pail's Facebook page to see whether customers would be interested in a drive-through version of the market. Her sister Erika, from her home in Montana, developed a system for online ordering and payment.
The response was quick. Orders for last week's trial run of the drive-through Milk Pail filled up within a few hours, Kai said. They sold 200 boxes of cheeses, bread from Mountain View's The Midwife and the Baker, Guittard Chocolate, frozen Petit Pains & Co croissants and other European products that were customer favorites.
A few weeks in, the Milk Pail added a produce box ($39) and two size options for the "essentials" boxes with cheese, bread and other specialty items ($50 for small and $75 for large).
Kai hopes to add boxes of fresh, locally sourced produce soon. Down the line, customers could have the option of choosing products for customized boxes.
The Portola Valley farmers market also reopened in March as a drive-through concept.
The Rasmussens plan to continue this model for the foreseeable future.
"We're trying it out and seeing how it goes," Kai said. "People seem to be super enthusiastic about the Milk Pail resurrecting."
Weekly ordering begins Tuesdays at noon for pickup on Saturday and Sunday. To place an order, go to milkpail.com or order [email protected]