By Emily Miranda
Story by Gwen Lawler -Tough
Photos by Brent Van Auken
MOORE'S FLOUR MILL IN REDDING
We’ve come a long way from the days when every family baked its daily bread. Every town had a flour mill, located on a stream or river to power its millstones. Then in the late 1800s, giant industrial mills took over, producing flour by the ton with electrically powered steel rollers.
Moore's Flour Mill in Redding is one of a few mills nationwide that still make flour the old-fashioned way, by grinding wheat kernels between two heavy stones. Bob Moore, who owns the business, and his brother Ken found their first set of grindstones back in 1974 with the help of an 80-year-old lifelong miller in Indiana named Dewey Sheets. Sheets located an 1850-era water-powered mill in Fayetteville, North Carolina, that was falling into disrepair. The grindstones from that mill weighed over a ton each and cost about $1,500 to ship to California.
But those stones put the Moores in business. They opened their mill in 1974 in a 40-by-60-foot Quonset hut on South Market Street in Redding. Some were not optimistic about the future of their floury business. “I remember a banker telling me that this was just a fad,” says Moore. But they continued to grow, and moved to their current location at 1605 Shasta Street in early 1977.
It may have 19th-century parts, but Moore’s Flour Mill is alive and thriving today. It has 15 employees and operates two shifts at the plant. Moore’s owns two big trucks that “we load and send out two to three days a week,” says Bob Moore. “We ship that much again on other trucks.” One recent day, they were loading 50,000 pounds of custom-milled flour for a Bay Area client, and another truck with 20,000 pounds of polenta, from milled corn. Unlike giant mills, Moore’s can customize its grinding process to match the needs of the customer. The biggest of its 10 silos can hold up to 120,000 pounds of grain.
Moore’s uses Montana red wheat for its high protein and gluten content, components essential for making great bread. Their wholewheat flour has a 15% protein content, while their white flour is 11¾% protein. Compared to flour produced by the big mills, the stone grinding process allows most of the healthy nutrients of the wheat kernels to remain in the flour.
Valerie Workman, owner and manager of Redding’s Homecraft Breads, says they use Moore’s exclusively for all of their products, because it’s local and “their wheat flour is 100% organic and high in fiber.” Homecraft makes whole wheat bread and French bread, as well as four- and 10-grain breads, using Moore’s products. Their high-quality breads are sandwich staples at Redding restaurants like Carnegie’s, Tapas and Yaks, as well as the lunch spot right in their building on Park Marina.
It’s not all about flour at Moore’s. Their store is small, but offers a treasure trove of healthy food, spices and crunchy granolas. They sell one- and three-pound bags of cranberry pecan and honey-almond granola, as well as their own roasted maple pecan granola ($7.49 for three pounds). There are three kinds of honey, molasses and hard-to- find sugars like date and dextrose. They have cereals to suit almost everyone: 4-grain, 10 grain, rolled and quick-cooking oats. People who are gluten intolerant looking for wheat- flour alternatives will find potato starch, amaranth and soy flours along with xanthan gum, which helps gluten-free products to rise. They also sell grains like quinoa, whole wheat pasta and orzo, a tiny pasta that cooks like rice.
Moore’s is once again running out of space and is planning for a new park-like mill on 75 acres they own southeast of the Bonnyview exit off Interstate 5. Bob Moore says they want to build an oldfashioned water-powered mill on the site and farm the land.
The Moores’ great, great grandfather, Jacob Yost, sold yeast cakes out of his horse-drawn cart in the 1800s. Today, four generations later, Moore’s still sells a little bit of yeast and a whole lot of healthy, stone-ground flour. It turns out that the old ways are still the best for making a great loaf of bread.
Moore’s Flour Mill
1605 Shasta St., Redding