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"This is Bob taking care of us."
March 2, 2010 2:45 PM   Subscribe

"In his 81 years, Bob Moore has built a mini empire with his health food company, Bob's Red Mill Natural Foods. During his recent birthday celebration, he told his dedicated employees that he's passing the torch and ownership of his multimillion dollar business to them." "[H]is 209 employees now own the place and its 400 offerings of stone-ground flours, cereals and bread mixes."

"Moore said he's gotten countless buy-out offers over the years, but he couldn't envision selling the business to a stranger....'I don't think there's anybody worthy to run this company but the people who built it. I have employees with me right now that have been with me for 30 years. They just were committed to staying with me now and they're going to own the company.'"
posted by ericb (71 comments total) 65 users marked this as a favorite

 
ABC News video [02:35].

Short Tour of Bob's Red Mill World Headquarters [04:37].

Bob's Red Mill Natural Foods YouTube channel.
posted by ericb at 2:45 PM on March 2, 2010


awesome.
posted by nathancaswell at 2:47 PM on March 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


beyond awesome.
posted by gcbv at 2:51 PM on March 2, 2010


Bob's Red Mill Natural Foods

It's like the commies aren't even trying to hide anymore.

But seriously, awesome work commies.
posted by Think_Long at 2:51 PM on March 2, 2010 [58 favorites]


Only easily accessible source of Teff flour around here. Also, their brownie mix, while expensive, is really really good.
posted by edgeways at 2:53 PM on March 2, 2010


Aw. I don't think I've ever read a story of a corporate handover that brought tears to my eyes before.

I'm a big fan of Bob's Red Mill products, to the point that I boxed up at least five or six different bags of various grains and brought them on our recent move halfway across the country. Very good stuff from a company I have always felt good about supporting, so this is really nice to hear about.
posted by padraigin at 2:54 PM on March 2, 2010


That's really cool.
posted by brundlefly at 2:57 PM on March 2, 2010


Wow. Great. I just discovered Bob's hot grain cereals a couple years ago, when they were being carried by an imported foods chain here in Tokyo called Seijo Ishii. They're delicious. His 7-grain cereal became a family favorite here at chez flapjax. Then Seijo Ishii stopped carrying them, and I haven't seen Bob's products anywhere else, which I've been pretty bummed about.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 2:58 PM on March 2, 2010


What an incredible guy -- didn't even start the company until he was 50!
posted by Madamina at 2:58 PM on March 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Love it.

Bob's Red Mill is kind of the only game in town for a lot of these products, but that's OK, because they all seem to be really great quality (at least the ones I've used). I'm glad to see that it's also an excellent company.
posted by darksong at 2:58 PM on March 2, 2010


hooray bob!
posted by The Esteemed Doctor Bunsen Honeydew at 2:59 PM on March 2, 2010


Nice. He's like the Bizzaro Whole Foods guy.
posted by drjimmy11 at 3:01 PM on March 2, 2010 [28 favorites]


The Kai Ryssdal interview of Bob Moore on Marketplace (both MP3 and the transcription).
posted by bz at 3:02 PM on March 2, 2010


"A rich man hoards his coins. A man that shares his riches is truly wealthy."

Good to hear. His oatmeal is, literally, the only one I've ever been able to enjoy.
posted by discountfortunecookie at 3:05 PM on March 2, 2010


Wow.
posted by Shepherd at 3:05 PM on March 2, 2010


More:
NPR Marketplace Radio Interview [28:53].

Fox and Friends Interview Video [02:51].
posted by ericb at 3:06 PM on March 2, 2010


Waving the flag for Bob in Hong Kong.

We like his ground flaxseed.
posted by bwg at 3:07 PM on March 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Bob originally founded Moore's Flour Mill in Redding, California before retiring. His kids or grandkids are running it now. Apparently retirement didn't set well with him, so he started Bob's Red Mill.

Moore's Flour Mill is still in business, and is just as good as Bob's. It's nice to see the good guys win every now and then.
posted by entropicamericana at 3:10 PM on March 2, 2010


I've met Bob and toured the factory. There is no hidden badness behind any of this. Pure awesome. This is just a circumstance where a really nice guy has a successful business. Yay!
posted by nímwunnan at 3:11 PM on March 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Fucking yes. This is correct.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:15 PM on March 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


This is awesome.

Thanks, Bob's Red Mill. You guys have the best couscous!
posted by rachaelfaith at 3:16 PM on March 2, 2010


Huh, I've been buying their stuff for years. I especially love their potato bread mix. Had no idea I was supporting such a good outfit.
posted by Malor at 3:17 PM on March 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wow! This is EXTREMELY cool, and it makes me glad I've got a big bag of his company's TVP in my cabinet. Looks like this calls for some celebratory TVP curry!
posted by Greg Nog at 3:21 PM on March 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


huh. i don't typically buy their stuff because it tends toward the prohibitively expensive, where i live, but next time i can't make it out to the bulk barn, i'll feel considerably better about paying eight bucks for a little bag of wheat gluten.
posted by wreckingball at 3:22 PM on March 2, 2010


I already have almost maximum love for Bob's Red Mill products, I don't know where to go from here with the news that he's that awesome.
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:23 PM on March 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


His is the only gluten-free corn bread mix we can find that is halfway edible. We're very fortunate that he and his company are successful.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:25 PM on March 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Bob originally founded Moore's Flour Mill in Redding, California before retiring.

American Profile: Milling a Dream.
“Moore was introduced to milling in the late 1960s when he read John Goffe’s Mill, a 1948 book about a young man who restores his family’s old grist mill. ‘It was a milestone,’ he says. ‘It gave me a definite connection and a focus that this is what I need to be doing.’

At the time, Moore managed an auto service center in Redding, Calif., and his only link to whole grain foods came from his wife, Charlee, who loved to cook with them. He soon set out to learn more about the centuries-old milling process, in which a 2-ton circular stone crushes grain by turning slowly against a stationary bottom stone. Unlike modern methods, the process allows all of the nutrients to remain in the resulting flour.

In 1973, Moore, with his wife’s support, committed himself to his dream. He purchased a set of 19th-century millstones from a defunct North Carolina mill, and within a year he and Charlee opened Moore’s Flour Mill in Redding. The business prospered, and four years later the couple decided to retire. They subsequently sold the mill to one of their three sons and moved to Portland, Ore.

But Bob Moore wasn’t quite ready to retire. Shortly after moving, he came upon an old vacant flour mill near Oregon City (pop. 25,754), and his passion was rekindled. ‘I guess we had worked so hard to build that first mill that I wasn’t ready to be done with it yet,’ he says. The Moores bought the mill and started a new whole grain business, naming it Bob’s Red Mill.

After 10 years of growing the small company, tragedy struck when an arson fire destroyed the mill. But Moore was determined to keep the business alive and rebuilt in nearby Milwaukie. ‘That was a hard time for us,’ he says. ‘But we pulled together. We worked around the clock, and we never completely shut down. We were fully operating within six months.’

Today, business is booming at Bob’s Red Mill, where products are milled with a combination of century-old stones as well as new stones imported from Denmark.”
posted by ericb at 3:26 PM on March 2, 2010


By way of contrast: After Posting An $8.8 Billion Loss, AIG Execs May Get A Pay Raise
posted by HP LaserJet P10006 at 3:27 PM on March 2, 2010 [5 favorites]


What happens if you only have 2 1/2 years of tenure?
posted by gagglezoomer at 3:27 PM on March 2, 2010


They make a good, reasonably-priced egg substitute that I use all the time. I haven't seen the bean soup mix in a while, though -- maybe I'll look again or make a fuss about it at the local co-op grocery.
posted by amtho at 3:27 PM on March 2, 2010


Countdown to corporate bankruptcy?
posted by blue_beetle at 3:27 PM on March 2, 2010


Thats amazing. I love this stuff, and I'm going to bake a celebratory 12-grain loaf tomorrow!
posted by milestogo at 3:28 PM on March 2, 2010


Up with mutualism!
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 3:29 PM on March 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


That is 1027awesome. Good for Bob!

I always end up getting Red Mill products when baking for various gluten hating friends.
posted by ecurtz at 3:29 PM on March 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh, what a cool guy. I wish the new owners the very best of luck.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 3:29 PM on March 2, 2010


Had no idea this was a Portland, OR based company.
posted by wcfields at 3:32 PM on March 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Countdown to corporate bankruptcy?

Bob and the management team are not retiring and will continue to manage the company and its operations as they have been for years.
posted by ericb at 3:34 PM on March 2, 2010


A few comments in various places seem to compare this to communism or some sort of anti-capitalist move, but it really appears it's more a case that the employees directly benefit financially from the company when they leave or retire - they're not stockholders in the "now everyone votes we make red wagons" sense. Either way, a lovely gesture.
posted by jscott at 3:35 PM on March 2, 2010


i think i know what brand is going on the grocery list from here on out. this is an amazing thing. yay, bob!
posted by ms.jones at 3:36 PM on March 2, 2010


This makes me incredibly happy. Bob's gluten-free oats are the reason my kids get to have homemade granola and oatmeal cookies. He has made my foray into the world of gluten-free cooking -SO- much easier.
posted by ebee at 3:36 PM on March 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is really neat. I would be really surprised if they weren't influenced by King Arthur Flour's transition to employee ownership, which took place in 1996 (disclosure: I've done a lot of work for KAF, but am not an employee-owner). I don't recall hearing of Bob's Red Mill, but it seems like the west coast equivalent of King Arthur (which is based in Vermont). King Arthur doesn't actually own any milling operations, but they contract with various small mills that must meet incredibly strict specifications; their flour is the highest quality I've every baked with.

I've had enough access at King Arthur to see firsthand that employee ownership of this type really works, and makes a lot of sense for a company of their size and structure. Employees are motivated and engaged; the company has been recognized more than once as one of the best workplaces both in Vermont and nationally. All good signs for Bob's Red Mills!

Good job Bob!
posted by soy bean at 3:37 PM on March 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


Hooray for Bob, we need more like him.
posted by doctor_negative at 3:39 PM on March 2, 2010


"Ryssdal: I'll tell you, Mr. Moore, you don't sound like a guy who's just going to sort of hang it up one day and walk away.

MOORE: I don't want to hang it up, no, Kai. I don't want to. I come to work everyday. I just love this place. I've got a corner office with windows all around. And I'm just surrounded with memorabilia, pictures, and all kinds of things of my long life, and I just don't see any reason to give it up.

Ryssdal: So you're still in charge, then, right? You're still the boss?

MOORE: Yeah, I still am. Well, I have the fiduciary responsibility of this whole thing. And until such time it's paid off, I have that responsibility, and I've chosen to be president. Anyhow, yes, I am still in charge."*
posted by ericb at 3:39 PM on March 2, 2010


gagglezoomer: What happens if you only have 2 1/2 years of tenure?
I actually had the same thought, as it wasn't addressed in the article. However, in the Seattle Times version it sort of implied that once a person had been there three years, they'd be vested, and then would get a pay out of some sort when they finally retire. I assume the same would be true of employees who weren't at 3 years yet, as well as new employees that are hired after today, like most any other ESOP:
Vested employees are sent annual reports detailing their respective stakes in the company. When those employees quit or retire, they receive in cash whatever amount they — and the company, through increased revenues, new sales and controlled costs — are due.
posted by hincandenza at 3:40 PM on March 2, 2010


A few comments in various places seem to compare this to communism or some sort of anti-capitalist move, but it really appears it's more a case that the employees directly benefit financially from the company when they leave or retire - they're not stockholders in the "now everyone votes we make red wagons" sense.

Are you implying that I would use communism as a semiotic scare tactic, regardless of its actual relevancy to the topic? I am offended.
posted by Think_Long at 3:48 PM on March 2, 2010


I still like to do it old-style, and use it as a hammer to crush the enemy.
Not actually something Mao really said AFAICT
posted by Abiezer at 3:56 PM on March 2, 2010



My son is on a gluten-free diet and we always struggled with finding great tasting pancakes. Once we found Bob's Red Mill, we couldn't ever go back to any other source. It's so good!

Great to hear it's a great company too!
posted by dealing away at 3:56 PM on March 2, 2010


I'd start buying their products as a show of support, but I already buy them. They are awesome. I don't know that anyone else even makes coconut flour.
posted by Nattie at 4:10 PM on March 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


One of the many reasons to do business with companies rather than corporations whenever you can.
posted by jamjam at 4:37 PM on March 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


For All the People: Uncovering the Hidden History of Cooperation, Cooperative Movements, and Communalism in America
this dramatic and stirring account examines each of the definitive American cooperative movements for social change—farmer, union, consumer, and communalist—that have been all but erased from collective memory. Focusing far beyond one particular era, organization, leader, or form of cooperation, the expansive analysis documents the multigenerational struggle of the American working people for social justice. With an expansive sweep and breathtaking detail, the chronicle considers Native American times and follows the American worker from the colonial workshop to the modern mass-assembly line, ultimately painting a vivid panorama of those who built the United States and those who will shape its future.
posted by stbalbach at 4:47 PM on March 2, 2010


(link to above)
posted by stbalbach at 4:49 PM on March 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


UP WITH THIS SORT OF THING.
posted by The Whelk at 4:54 PM on March 2, 2010 [6 favorites]


Another loyal customer here who's extra happy to have bought from Bob. Good on you, Bob.
posted by bearwife at 5:00 PM on March 2, 2010


I hereby name the soup I make from their vegi soup mix "Bob's Big Heart Soup"!

Sounds kinda gross, but believe me it's delicious!
posted by orme at 5:28 PM on March 2, 2010


Bob originally founded Moore's Flour Mill in Redding, California before retiring. His kids or grandkids are running it now. Apparently retirement didn't set well with him, so he started Bob's Red Mill.

Holy shit, I pass by them whenever I'm go back home. I had thought the grain stores where just leftovers from an much earlier company.
posted by MikeKD at 5:30 PM on March 2, 2010


As an official I-wish-I-didn't-have-to-hate-gluten-but-it-hates-me* sort of humans, I have at least 5 different bags of Bob's Red Mill gluten-free flours & oats in my cupboard.

Go Bob's!

* Sometimes I just sniff freshly baked sourdough or french bread, just to at least have my nose delighted. People laugh at me about this.
posted by msjen at 5:46 PM on March 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


A few comments in various places seem to compare this to communism or some sort of anti-capitalist move

What?

Capitalist builds capitalist business. Capitalist grows old and considers passing it on. Capitalist decides the best way to perpetuate his business is to pass it on to a group of shareholders who are experts in the field (i.e., his employees). Capitalist then disposes of his property as he chooses.

It ain't commie-nism just because the richest 1% didn't get a cut.
posted by PlusDistance at 6:58 PM on March 2, 2010


This is great. Thanks for the post.

discountfortunecookie: His oatmeal is, literally, the only one I've ever been able to enjoy.

His oats are so good, they won the Golden Spurtle in October (first time that an American has won). Them oats don't need no sweeteners or fats added to outshine the competition. Just "a package of off-the-shelf steel-cut oats, clean water and sea salt -- plus a special stirring technique."
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 7:57 PM on March 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh noes! The workers have control of the means of production! Surely this will end with somebody gettin' re-edumicated somewhere. This coldly calculated gesture of common human decency coupled with sensible business practices shall not stand!
posted by BitterOldPunk at 8:29 PM on March 2, 2010


Bob's buckwheat pancake mix is delicious, and also happens to look exactly like the fine alkaline dust that blows across the Black Rock desert in Nevada.

Thus, for several years running, on bleary Sunday mornings after they Burned the Man, I got to wow campmates and random passersby with Genuine Playa Dust Pancakes. (If anyone doubted me, I'd just show them the mixing bowl.)

Gift economy? This takes it to a whole new level.
posted by otherthings_ at 8:43 PM on March 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


I won't soon forget going into the retail outlet in Milwaukie, OR for beakfast one Saturday morning and seeing the guy from the label walking by with a plate of food - OMG it's Bob! Since that first encounter several years ago, I run into him all the time as the archive warehouse I manage for a Portland engineering firm is just up the street from the "Red Mill." Next time I see him, I am definitely going to congratulate him for being the decent human being that so many capitalists aren't.....I have no illusion, he made his profit, but he seems like a very, very decent guy, wish there were more like him!
posted by pdxjmorris at 8:52 PM on March 2, 2010


I bought a bag of Bob's Red Mill rye flour last week. It was the only rye flour I could find, and I'd never heard of the brand until then. (I needed it so I could try my hand at sourdough; the natural yeasts on rye are supposed to be good for that.)

Now I see this and I see the mefites giving their products glowing reviews. Guess I know what specialty flour I'll be using in my baking self-education. I love to see companies doing things the right way.
posted by azpenguin at 10:17 PM on March 2, 2010


Shame on all us Portlanders that we did not post this story. It was in the local news.
posted by Cranberry at 11:00 PM on March 2, 2010


I enjoy Bob's Red Mill products and have for years. My mom also buys Bob's. I read about this story a week or two ago and it just made me feel really good.


His is the only gluten-free corn bread mix we can find that is halfway edible. We're very fortunate that he and his company are successful.

Have you tried Pamela's? I'm not gluten-free, but that one was good.
posted by cmgonzalez at 11:53 PM on March 2, 2010


This move is known as the reverse-Ben&Jerry in the business world.
posted by asok at 2:59 AM on March 3, 2010


Hey, we just bought our first bag of product from them over the weekend - it was the only oat bran we could find at the local mega-mart. This is good incentive to continue stopping at that shelf for some more goods.
posted by backseatpilot at 4:48 AM on March 3, 2010


Ditto the shout-out above for how useful and high quality his stuff is for the gluten-allergic. A dear childhood friend of mine developed a gluten allergy in his 20s and his wife, who loves to cook and bake fresh bread, can't say enough good things about Bob's. It's allowed her to continue making the food she loves in forms he can enjoy.
posted by ifjuly at 11:51 AM on March 3, 2010


Lovey love love love love. When I first read about this last week I got a serious case of the schmoopies. I'm going to buy all my flour-y things from Bob's from now on, and not just the weirdo stuff.

(BTW, for those of you WITHOUT gluten allergies -- grab some cans of chickpeas, a bag of wheat gluten and a copy of the Veganomicon cookbook -- oh man. SO TASTY, those chickpea cutlets!)
posted by bitter-girl.com at 12:25 PM on March 3, 2010


I've enjoyed these products, but now I'll go out of my way to get them. This is the sort of thing I love to see happen. Wonderful.
posted by dejah420 at 1:36 PM on March 3, 2010


I've got two loaves of bread cooling on the rack right now with his wheat germ in them.

I am going to eat the fuck out of that bread tomorrow.
posted by middleclasstool at 10:58 PM on March 3, 2010


Another great person to admire -- Illinois woman who lived modestly leaves $7 million for Lake Forest College.
posted by ericb at 1:30 PM on March 5, 2010


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