Thursday, July 25

Bob Moore, founder of Bob’s Red Mill, has died at the age of 94

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

His death was announced by the company, which cited no cause.

Founded in Milwaukie in 1978, Bob’s Red Mill has grown from serving the Portland area to become a global natural foods giant, marketing more than 200 products in more than 70 countries. The company’s product line includes a range of whole grains, including stone-ground sorghum flour, paleo-style granola and pearled whole grain couscous, along with energy bars and cake and soup mixes.

Over the years, the company has profited greatly from moving away from processed foods and grains, geared toward nutrition.

“I think people who eat white flour, white rice, degerminated corn — in other words, grains that have had some of their nutrients stripped — are losing out,” Moore said in 2017 in an interview for an Oral History from Oregon State University. “I think our diets, nationally and probably internationally, demonstrate the fact that we have simply allowed ourselves to be sold a list of goods.”

Despite the company’s explosive growth, Mr. Moore rejected numerous offers from food industry giants to buy Bob’s Red Mill. He opted instead for an employee stock ownership plan, established in 2010, on the occasion of his 81st birthday; by April 2020, the plan had put 100% of the company in the hands of its more than 700 employees.

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

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

Mr Moore, known for his distinctive red waistcoat and white beard, often drew comparisons to Santa Claus. (He was also known for his ties and newspaper caps.) His sweetly smiling face adorns the packaging of all of his company’s products, along with the slogan “For Your Good Health.”

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

With its popular earth-toned packaging and its strong emphasis on natural ingredients, Bob’s Red Mill has managed to evoke an anti-corporate, back-to-the-earth ethos reminiscent of the Whole Earth Catalog era of the 1970s, with clear appeal to ex-hippies and coastal wellness devotees.

At the same time, the amiable white-haired Bob and Charlee Moore, sometimes seen smiling in one of their two 1931 Ford Model A roadsters, projected a small-town wholesomeness that suggested a lost world of barbershop quartets and sarsaparilla floats which seemed perfectly tailored to the heart.

Healthiness, it seems, was anything but an act. And it turned out to be a cornerstone of 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 some sort of corn job: He drove a Wonder Bread truck.

Bob was too young to enlist when World War II began, so he took a warehouse job for the May Company department store in Los Angeles. He got his first taste of management at 16, when his boss promoted him to manage his own department at 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 over the moon.”

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 navigate a career path when one day, driving along Crenshaw Boulevard in Los Angeles, he saw a “Coming Soon” sign for a new Mobil gas station. Sensing a lucrative deal, he reached out to see if he could purchase it. The young couple quickly sold the house to raise the necessary $6,000.

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

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

Nearly destitute, the Moores moved to Sacramento, where Mr. Moore found work in the hardware department of a Sears department store.

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

“It’s a fascinating story,” Mr. Moore said in the Oregon State interview. The author, he said, was “educated as an archaeologist, and I too have an interest in this kind of thing. Biblical archeology is something that has fascinated me for much of my life.”

“But most of all,” he added, “when George said, after he got his mill going, that people were knocking on his door for his wholemeal and cornmeal, I read it and thought, ‘My God. ‘. , if I could find some millstones and a mill somewhere, I bet I could do the same thing.’”

He did just that. He began tracking down old 19th-century millstones and other necessary equipment and transformed a Quonset hut on the outskirts of town into a mill for grinding various strains of wheat and other grains. In 1974, he and his wife turned their new obsession into a family mill, which also employed their teenage children.

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

Business was good, but eventually Mr. Moore began to feel the pull of a lifelong dream: learning to read the Bible in its original languages, including Hebrew and Koine Greek. He retired when he was about 50 years old and he and his wife moved to Portland to pursue this course of study in a seminary.

Mr. Moore, however, soon tired of the painstaking work involved in learning ancient languages. “One day we were walking, reading the vocabulary cards back and forth, we had Greek verbs on one side and nouns on the other,” he said in the podcast. “To my surprise, there was a mill. It had been there a long time. And there was a “For Sale” sign out front. I could not believe it.

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

When he dialed the indicated number, the owner said he planned to demolish the mill to showcase the value of the land underneath.

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