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

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

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

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

Over the years, the company benefited greatly from the shift in nutritional mindsets away from processed foods and grains.

“I think that people who eat white flour, white rice, degerminated corn (in other words, grains that have had some of their nutrients removed) fall short”Moore said in 2017 in an interview for an Oregon State University oral history article. “I think our diets, nationally and internationally probably, show the fact that we have simply allowed ourselves to be sold a list of products.”

Despite the company’s explosive growth, Moore turned down numerous offers from food giants to buy Bob’s Red Mill. Instead, he opted for an employee stock ownership plan, instituted in 2010, when he turned 81; By April 2020, the plan had put 100 percent of the company in the hands of its more than 700 employees.

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

While Bob’s Red Mill is a joint effort in that sense, its marketing appeal is rooted in the cult of personality surrounding its hirsute founder.

Moore, known for his trademark red vest and white beard, frequently made comparisons to Santa Claus. (He was also known for his bolo ties and newsboy caps.) His gently smiling face adorns the packaging of each of his company’s products, along with the slogan “For His Good Health.”

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

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

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

Health, it seemed, was anything but an act. And it turned out to be the cornerstone of a nine-figure powerhouse.

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

Bob was too young to enlist when World War II began, so he took a job in a warehouse at the May Company department store in Los Angeles. He had an early experience in management at age 16, when his boss promoted him to run his own department at the store.

“I left his office; I didn’t leave, I flew out,” he said on the NPR podcast “How I Built This with Guy Raz.” “He was 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 children.

Moore was still trying to decide on a career path when one day, while driving down Crenshaw Boulevard in Los Angeles, he saw a “Coming Soon” sign advertising a new Mobil gas station. Sensing a lucrative business, he reached out 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.”

However, after a couple of years, the couple grew tired of the smog and bustle of Los Angeles. They sold the station and moved to the ski town of Mammoth Lakes in the southern Sierra Nevada, where they bought another gas station. It failed after a year.

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

In the mid-1940s, he was managing a JC Penney auto 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 author’s restoration of a race. family flour mill in New Hampshire.

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

“But most of all,” he added, “when George made the statement, after he started his mill, that people were beating their way to his door on his whole grain flour and corn flour, I read it and thought, ‘My God.’ . ‘If he could find some millstones and a mill somewhere, I bet he could do the same.’”

He did just that. He began searching for old 19th-century millstones and other necessary equipment, and converted a Quonset hut on the outskirts of town into a mill to grind various varieties of wheat and other grains. In 1974, he and his wife turned his new obsession into a family factory, where his teenage children also worked.

Mr. Moore is survived by 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 going well, but Mr. Moore finally began to feel the pull of a lifelong dream: to learn 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.

However, Mr. Moore soon tired of the hard work involved in learning ancient languages. “One day we were walking, reading 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. He had been there a long time. And in front there was a “For sale” sign. He 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 could not believe what I was seeing”.

When he dialed the number listed, the owner said he planned to tear down the mill to expose the value of the underlying land.

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