In the late 1800’s, Michael’s grandfather emigrated from Poland to the United States. Alexander Gujda came through Ellis Island where his name was changed to Alexander Guida Sr. He originally settled in Massachusetts but eventually moved to Middletown, Connecticut where he owned his own farm. This is where Alexander Jr., Michael’s father, was born.
Alexander Guida Jr. was the third of 13 children who grew up working on the Middletown farm. Wanting a change of scenery, Alexander moved to New Britain in 1930 and began work at Stanley Works. After a few short years, he decided that factory work wasn’t for him. Alexander went back to his farming roots and started selling milk from the backseat of his car supplied by different dairies in Connecticut.
During World War II, since milk was scarce at the time, H.P. Hood wanted to acquire Seibert Dairy, one of the milk suppliers in Connecticut. To avoid this, Alexander offered to buy the dairy from Arthur Seibert in 1945. Alexander finally purchased the dairy from Seibert in 1946 and officially founded Guida-Seibert Dairy.
Michael was brought up working for the dairy company. At eight years old, he was making homemade whipped cream in the Guida ice cream shop. As Michael got older, he began to go on home delivery runs with his father. During one of these runs, his father tested Michael’s commitment to the dairy. He showed him a paper and told Michael that there had been an offer to buy the dairy company. His father asked Michael if he should sell it or not. Michael told his father not to sell. He wanted a chance to prove to his father that he could run the business as well as, if not better than, his father. Alexander took the paper and ripped it up. To this day, Michael doesn’t know if someone was actually trying to buy the dairy or if his father just made it up. Whether there was a real buyer or not, this moment solidified Michael’s interest in the dairy.
Guida Dairy has been a part of New Britain for a considerable time. During Michael’s turn as president, the impact of the dairy on the community has been profound. It was under Michael’s instruction to start putting pictures of missing children on the side panel of the half-gallon milk cartons. Guida Milk was the first to do so and received national recognition for it. When there wasn’t a picture, the milk cartons had messages that promoted drug-free and healthy lifestyles. For a limited time, Michael was able to get New Kids On the Block, a popular boy band in the nineties, to appear on the milk carton to promote healthy lifestyle choices.
At its height, Guida Dairy delivered to 70% of Connecticut’s schools, donated to charities, supplied milk and orange juice to the high school football programs, was ranked 139th largest dairy in the country, was a top 10 independently owned company, and became the largest milk company in Connecticut.
Family was another part of Michael’s life that influenced his time at the dairy. Michael worked long hours at the dairy seven days a week. His wife, Judy, and their three children were always there to support him. Two of Michael’s children, Jonathan and Ashley, began working at the dairy with their father. Michael’s two brothers, Bernard and Alexander III, also worked in the family industry at the Guida satellite offices in Bristol and New London. Even Michael’s nephews came to work for the family business.
Throughout his years as President and CEO, Michael always followed his father’s advice on how to run the company: Treat the employees like family and put back into the community what the community did for you. The most important philosophy Michael followed was MBWA – managing business by walking around. Whether it was loading trucks or moving milk crates, if an employee needed help, Michael was always there to lead by example. He got to know his employees better, kept an ear to the ground, and picked up different ways to improve the company.