Back when I was living in Medford, Sara emailed and said, “hey! Have you heard of Bob’s Red Mill – it’s in Milwaukie, Oregon. Is that near you?” This was one of the many emails she had sent linking to a fun foodie destination in Oregon – my newest home in 2008. I had to explain initially that Portland was a good 5 hours from Medford. So, when she found something in a town other than Portland, I’ll give her credit, it was a rare find.
It’s a few years later, and I now that I live in Portland, I had the opportunity to visit. I’m not sure what it is about factory tours, but they are just so cool. My foodie geekiness is coming out here. Maybe it’s from watching Sesame Street and seeing how they made crayons or peanut butter. Maybe it’s the inevitable free samples? It’s just fascinating to see big machinery mass produce what I purchase in the store. I was, indeed, a food nerd on this tour.
I’ll start by saying I was very impressed with the company. I’ll refer you to the web page for a little history, but short story is that Bob is very invested in his store and his community. He started the store in “retirement” back in the late 70s as a small whole foods/health foods market. It had the charming feel of an old time pioneer store. He just liked the idea of using an old mill to process grain, like in the good ol’ days. An arson sadly burnt down his first mill in the late 80s and he moved on from there with a much larger space and room to grow into a company that produces these amazing products and ships them all over the world. He gives money to charities, products to schools, and to his employees. On his 81st birthday he gifted the store to his employees. http://www.bobsredmill.com/press-releases.html. His spirit is definitely a part of the company – or perhaps he knows how to hire people who have the same spirit. I found everyone to be exceedingly friendly and helpful, in a genuine, honest and sincere way – not something you get “trained” to do.
The mill operates the old-fashioned way with actual quartz milling stones. They also have a completely separate gluten-free wing of the factory to avoid any cross-contamination. It’s quite the process and a great niche to be in now that many people are finding they are allergic to gluten.
The factory tour was given by Christie, an healthy food enthusiast, and an excellent tour guide. We also saw BOB walking around the factory – he told us that Christie was the best too. Christie gave each of us “good listening” tokens, which we redeemed for delicious cookies at the factory store, just a mile down the road. YUM. You can purchase all of their products in bulk, and they have a LOT of products. I was near giddy from the moment we walked in and I was very surprised that I left with a small load. Perhaps it was the knowledge that I can easily and readily come back.
Naturally, I texted Sara from the store to say “SO COOL!” She promptly reminded me to take a picture with Bob – though I don’t think she knew there really was a “Bob” – kind of like there’s no longer a “Joe” at Trader Joe’s. But, no, there is and he was at the other end of the cafe. What did I do, I walked over with my handy camera phone, explained – in my giddiness – about threecleversisters, and asked for a photo. He happily obliged.
I also commented that my entire family is fan of his products including my grandma who is pretty much a paragon of health, likely because of similar healthy eating habits. As you can see, Bob looks nothing like an 82 year old. He’s bustling about the store, saying hi to folks, and enjoying the fruits of his labor. I’d also attach a picture here of my amazing grandma, but she’d have my head. Don’t worry Gami!