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Q&A with Bob of Bob's Red Mill

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Tuesday, July 01, 2008

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RISING PRICES and lackluster consumer spending isn’t bad for all businesses. Take food for example. After all, you’ve got to eat, right? Accordingly, the dough (pun intended) is rising at the newly refurbished 320,000- square-foot facility at Bob’s Red Mill Natural Foods in Milwaukie. Known for its whole-grain mixes and cereals, the company’s new digs doubles its manufacturing capacity, necessary because the business is growing 25% annually (the company doesn’t disclose financial figures).

On a recent tour of the mill, owner and president Bob Moore reached into a freshly milled sack of flax seeds. In his palm he held yellow flour as if he were a prospector on the banks of a river, beaming at his discovery of gold.

At 49, you went from running auto service centers in
California to making specialty grain products. How’d that happen? In the service station business I thought I was invincible. I bought a service station in Mammoth Lakes. It took me a year to lose everything. It was terrible, a real disaster. We ended up back in Sacramento living on a farm. There my wife, Charlee, started baking whole-wheat bread and I thought, “This is the way people are supposed to eat.” Then after moving to Redding to run an auto center, I ran across a book called John Goffe’s Mill by George Woodbury. It was about a man who inherited an old mill and revived it with his family. I thought this guy didn’t know beans about milling when he started, and if he did it, I can do it.



You’re now 79, an age when most are retired. Why not cash in and take up a hobby? I don’t fish. I don’t play golf. Retirement is doing what you want to do, isn’t it? My first goal was to be in business for myself. I discovered the freedom of being in business for myself was more important than the heavy responsibility of being in business for myself. I have almost 200 employees. That’s different than a hobby or retirement. I am not going to let it go real quick.



Of your 400 products, which is your favorite? I eat flax seed every day. And there’s nothing in this world I enjoy more than whole-grain bread.



Besides eating whole grains, any advice for young entrepreneurs? If you put something on a list and put it in front of you it’s like magic. Anchor yourself to some ideals and hold onto the rope that is attached to something. My way of doing that is making fairly complex lists.



Have you been approached about selling your business? Everybody loves my business. Investors, everybody wants to buy this thing. I never talk to anybody. I am not interested.

JASON SHUFFLER

PHOTO BY ADAM BACHER

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