Bob Moore has spent a long time figuring out who he is.
“You don’t always know who you are,” Moore said, “until you’ve been who you are for a while.”
The founder of Bob’s Red Mill celebrated his 93rd birthday this month—44 years after creating the company that bears his name.
Moore, whose face is printed on his company’s diverse array of health-focused and whole grain foods, is largely known for his milling business. While this might be his most well-known pursuit, it’s certainly not the first—before he started his first mill, Moore occupied various far-flung professions, ranging from a stint in the Army to electronics manufacturing, small business ownership and automotive service.
Moore said he joined up with the Army soon after graduating high school in 1947, where he built bridges and other infrastructure projects. After serving his allotted time, he leveraged the money from the recently-passed G.I. Bill to go to school for electronics manufacturing, learning enough to land himself a job in a test lab with U.S. Electrical Motors.
It was there that Moore met his lifelong wife, Charlee Moore, who worked in the company alongside him.
“I was fascinated by someone telling me about the girl named Chuck,” Moore said. “I wanted to know who she was…I asked her out for dinner, and the rest is history.”
Despite his interest in electronics, Moore continued to nurse a desire to go into business with his father—a dream that lived on even after his father’s unexpected death from a heart attack at 49 years old.
In 1955, Moore’s business aspirations became a reality when he bought a Mobil gas station in Gardena, California, which brought in enough income to support himself, Charlee and their three sons.
There he learned the fundamentals of business ownership, along with the value of hard work and dedication.
“I learned what hard work was,” Moore said. “The first year in the business, I worked 365 days of the year…I never took a day off.”
He left the business after several years, relocated himself and his family and eventually took a job as the general manager of a JCPenney auto center in Redding, California.
With a stable job and work that he liked at JCPenney, Moore made the discovery that would cause him to switch careers and change the course of his life entirely.
It happened in a library, which Moore visited frequently.
“I went to the library one day and I saw this book, John Goffe’s Mill,” Moore said. “I picked it up, looked at it and took it home and read it.”
Something about the book—which detailed the author’s experience restoring an antique grain mill—resonated with Moore. He wasn’t alone. Charlee Moore read as well and between the two of them, an idea emerged. Charlee Moore had a long-term interest in whole-grain foods and healthy eating, and this, combined with Bob Moore’s newfound interest in the art of milling, inspired them to open a mill together.
There was only one problem: neither of them had ever run a mill in their lives.
The Moores’ research process merged intensive reading with hands-on experience. The two took trips across the United States and England visiting old mills, some of which were hundreds of years old.
“It’s almost like magic,” Moore said of the research process. “When you start digging around and finding out here and there, this is working and that’s working.”
After getting the basics of milling down, the Moores opened up Moore’s Flour Mill in Redding, California, which they ran with their sons.
After several successful years in business, Bob and Charlee Moore retired—or thought they did—and moved to Oregon, leaving their sons in charge of the mill.
The couple lived a steady life in Oregon and joined a seminary, where they hoped to learn enough Hebrew and Aramaic to read the Bible in its original languages. To practice, they would walk long miles through the Oregon countryside, quizzing each other on Aramaic vocabulary. It was on one of these walks that inspiration struck again, with a discovery that would draw Moore out of retirement: the red mill which gave his company its name.
“One day we go down a certain street,” Moore said. “We haven’t gone down it before. We’re walking down the street, and here is this old mill. I could not believe it…there was a for-sale sign out front.”
Moore said he wasted no time calling the number listed on the sign, where he quickly arranged a sale.
Not long after the sale, Bob and Charlee Moore were out of retirement and back in business, christening their new enterprise Bob’s Red Mill—the name the business bears to this day. The operation started out small, but with the Moores’ dedication and hard work, it quickly grew into what it is today.
“This whole thing has been a series of efforts, energies [and] fascinations, both on my part and on my wife’s part,” Moore said of his and his wife’s foray into milling high-quality grains.
Now in his nineties, Moore looked back on his life and accomplishments with pride.
“I’m not done yet, don’t misunderstand me,” Moore said, “but I was able to fulfill a reality that I believed in and made it into a structured business that feeds a lot of people…I don’t know if there’s much more in life.”