You might recognize the name “Bob’s Red Mill” from their distinct colorful little bags with old-fashioned font, but how much do you know about the grain-mill company? First off, Bob is a real person, and he’s still alive and well at age 88. The story begins in 1952, when Bob Moore met Charlee. After trying his hand at operating gas stations, Bob eventually moved his family to a five-acre goat farm in California. They began eating healthier thanks to fresh eggs, milk, vegetables from the garden, and of course, whole grains. Bob’s father had died young of a heart attack, at age 49, so Bob began to prioritize his health.
It was during this time in the 1960’s that Charlee began baking whole-grain breads for her husband and three sons. Bob remembers that first loaf, calling it “the most delicious loaf of bread” he could recall eating. After reading a book on John Goffe, an archaeologist who went into flour milling with no experience, Bob had an idea. He found some stone-grinding millstones, which were largely no longer used in bread production, and started Moore’s Flour Mill. What makes stone-grinding unique is its speed and cool temperature. While high-speed steel rollers destroy the most nutritious part of the delicate grain, millstones preserve them. It’s a process that remains unchanged since Roman times. If it ain’t broke, why fix it?
In 1978, Bob and Charlee retired to Oregon City, leaving one of their sons in charge of their first mill. Rather than slow down, however, Bob found an old mill that was sale and within a few months, the mill he painted red and called “Bob’s Red Mill” was making flour and cereals. Bob eventually made a deal with Fred Meyer to sell the products, moved into more factories, so by 1988, annual sales were nearing $3 million.
Tragedy struck that same year when an arsonist burned down the original red mill. The Moore’s lost their whole investment. Bob and Charlee ended up taking out loans in order to rebuild the factory and warehouse, and continued their success. In 1991, they became one of the first grain mills to dedicate themselves to gluten-free, complete with labs that would test the products to make sure they contain zero gluten. These products now include flaxseed meal, chickpea flour, biscuit mix, chocolate chip cookie mix, pancake mix, and so much more.
On Bob’s 81st birthday in 2010, he gave his 209 employees an amazing gift. He gave them all total ownership of the mill, using an Employee Stock Ownership Program. For those who know him, this came as no surprise. Even as the company grew, Bob’s Red Mill never became “corporate,” and always worked with local retailers and small businesses. He described handing over the company as “the only business I could make,” and pointed to the Bible as a source the inspiration in giving away a multi-million dollar company, saying, “Love of money is the root of all evil.”
As of 2017, Bob Moore has still not retired, and has no plans, too. He and Charlee both love to hang out their Whole Grain Store & Bakery in Mikwaukie, Oregon. The store has a bakery, every Red Mill product, and a restaurant. If you’re interested in the milling process, there’s also a tour that explains the process and why it produces grains that are so good. Currently, Bob’s Red Mill produces everything from steel-cut oats to pizza dough mix to protein powder.