Bob Moore, Founder of Bob’s Red Mill, Dies at 94

Bob Moore, Founder of Bob’s Red Mill, Dies at 94

Bob Moore, Founder of Bob’s Red Mill, Dies at 94

Bob Moore, the entrepreneurial grandfather who, with his wife Charlee, exploited an image of organic cordiality and wholesome Americana to turn the artisan grain company Bob’s Red Mill into a $100 million-a-year business, has died Saturday at his home in Milwaukie. , Pray. He was 94 years old.

His death was announced by the company, which did not cite a cause.

Founded in Milwaukie in 1978, Bob’s Red Mill has grown from the Portland area to a global natural foods giant, marketing more than 200 products in more than 70 countries. The company’s product range covers a full range of whole grains, including stone-ground sorghum flour, paleo-style muesli and whole-wheat and pearl couscous, as well as energy bars and mixes for cakes and soups.

Over the years, the company has benefited greatly from a shift away from nutrition-focused processed foods and grains.

“I think people who eat white flour, white rice, degermed corn – in other words, grains that have had some of their nutrients removed – are short” Mr. Moore said in 2017 in an interview for an Oregon State University oral history. “I think our diets, nationally and internationally, probably point to the fact that we have just allowed ourselves to be sold a commodity .”

Despite the company’s explosive growth, Mr. Moore defended numerous offers from food giants to buy Bob’s Red Mill and opted instead for an employee stock ownership plan, instituted in 2010, on his 81st birthday. ; By April 2020, the plan had placed 100 percent of the company in the hands of its more than 700 employees.

“The Bible says to do others together as you would have them do to you,” Mr. Moore, a practicing Christian, said in discussing the plan in a recent interview with Portland Monthly magazine.

Although Bob’s Red Mill is an ensemble effort in this sense, its marketing appeal is rooted in the cult of personality surrounding its hirsute founder.

Mr. Moore, known for his red vest and white beard, frequently made comparisons to Santa Claus. (He was also known for his bolo ties and newsie caps.) His sweetly smiling face adorns the packaging of each of his company’s products, with the slogan “For your good health.”

“Everywhere I go, people recognize me,” Mr. Moore said in the 2017 interview, “and I always have someone to talk to.”

With its folky, earth-toned packaging and emphasis on natural ingredients, Bob’s Red Mill has managed to evoke an anti-corporate, back-to-the-earth philosophy reminiscent of Whole Earth Catalog 1970s era, with an obvious appeal to former hippies and coastal wellness enthusiasts.

At the same time, the friendly, white-haired Bob and Charlee Moore, sometimes photographed smiling in one of their two 1931 Fords. Model A Roadstersprojected a small-town wholesomeness that suggested a lost world of barbershop quartets and sarsaparilla floats that seemed perfectly suited to the heartland.

Healthiness, it seems, was anything but an act. And it provided a building block for a nine-figure powerhouse.

Robert Gene Moore was born February 15, 1929, in Portland, the eldest of two children of Ken and Doris Moore. He grew up in San Bernardino, California, outside Los Angeles, where his father also had a job outside of cereal: driving a Wonder Bread truck.

Bob was too young to enlist when World War II broke out, so he took a job in a warehouse at the May Company department store in Los Angeles. He got a taste of management at 16 when his boss promoted him to run his own department in the store.

“I walked out of his office — I didn’t walk out, I flew out,” he said on the NPR podcast “How I Built This with Guy Raz.” “I was just in seventh heaven.”

After a three-year stint in the Army, during which he helped build bridges and roads in the Marshall Islands, he returned to Southern California and met Charlee Lu Coote. The Moores married in 1953 and started a family that would include three boys.

Mr. Moore was still trying to decide on a career path when one day, while driving on Crenshaw Boulevard in Los Angeles, he saw a “Coming Soon” sign for a new Mobil gas station. Sensing a lucrative deal, he wanted to see if he could buy it. The young couple quickly sold their house to raise the necessary $6,000.

“The excitement of having my own business,” he said on the podcast, “is still with me.”

After a few years, however, the couple grew tired of the smog and hustle and bustle of Los Angeles. They sold the resort and moved to Mammoth Lakes Ski Resort in the southern Sierra Nevada, where they purchased another gas station. It failed within a year.

Almost destitute, the Moores moved to Sacramento, where Mr. Moore took a job in the hardware department of a Sears department store.

In his mid-40s, he was running a JC Penney auto shop in Redding, Calif., when he wandered through a library and came across a book called “John Goffe’s Mill,” by George Woodbury, which chronicled the restoration by the author of a race. -family flour mill in New Hampshire.

“It’s a charming story” Mr. Moore said in the Oregon State interview. The author, he said, was “trained as an archaeologist and I’m interested in that kind of research myself. things. “Biblical archeology is something that has fascinated me for most of my life.”

“But especially,” he added, “when George said, after he started his mill, that people were knocking right up to his door because of his whole wheat flour and cornmeal, I I read that and thought, “My God. , if I could find some millstones and a mill somewhere, I bet I could do the same thing.’”

That’s exactly what he did. He began tracking down old 19th century millstones and other necessary equipment, and he transformed a Quonset hut on the outskirts of town into a mill for grinding various varieties of wheat and other grains. In 1974, he and his wife turned their new obsession into a family factory, which also employed their teenage sons.

Mr. Moore is survived by a sister, Jeannie, and sons, Ken, Bob, Jr. and David, as well as nine grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. His wife died in 2018.

Business was good, but Mr. Moore finally began to feel the tug of a lifelong dream: learning to read the Bible in its original languages, including Hebrew and Koine Greek. He retired around age 50 and he and his wife moved to Portland to continue these studies at a seminary.

However, Mr. Moore soon grew tired of the painstaking work that learning ancient languages ​​required. “One day we were walking, reading vocabulary cards, we had Greek verbs on one side and nouns on the other,” he said on the podcast. “To my great surprise, there was a mill. He had been there for a long time. And out front there was a “For Sale” sign. “I couldn’t believe it.”

“I looked out the window and I could see bucket elevators, grain cleaners, I could see all the milling equipment,” he continued. “I couldn’t believe what I was watching.”

When he called the number listed, the owner said he was considering demolishing the factory to expose the value of the land underneath.

“I said, ‘What are you going to do?’ Demolish this mill?’ », recalls Mr. Moore. “I thought, ‘This is the most fantastic thing. I can’t believe what’s happening. So basically, I bought the thing and it changed my whole life.