Moore said he began thinking about succession about nine years ago. He’d heard about employee stock option programs and got much more serious about the idea three years ago.
That Moore has now pulled off what few other company owners would even dream about comes as no surprise to longtime acquaintances, such as Glenn Dahl, owner of NatureBake bakery in Milwaukie.
Bob’s Red Mill Natural Foods
Founded: 1978 by Bob and Charlee Moore
Where: Two Milwaukie locations
Growth: 20-30 percent each of the past five years
Key now: Transitioning to an employee-owned company
“Bob’s a force of nature,” said Dahl, whose family’s Gresham-area bakery was Moore’s first wholesale customer in the 1970s. “He’s always been that way. He gets an idea and just makes sure it happens, one way or the other.”
Moore’s own background is in electrical and mechanical engineering, but he fell in love with the mechanics of stone grinding in the 1960s after reading about old stone-grinding flour mills.
At about the same time, Charlee began sharing with him her delvings into the nutritional benefits of eating whole grain foods. The couple put their passions to work by starting, with their three sons, their first milling operation in Redding, Calif.
In 1978, the couple moved to Portland to retire. Moore’s idea at the time, reflecting his long-held sense of spirituality, was to learn the Bible in its original languages. A chance walk past a closed mill site near Oregon City, changed everything.
“I call it my emotional epiphany,” Moore said. “Whatever excuse I care to give, I was just sucked into it like a vortex.”
A 1988 arson destroyed the mill, when Moore was 60. Undeterred, he rebuilt the operation, moved once due to space needs and now occupies a 15-acre production facility and a two-acre headquarters and retail outlet along Oregon 224 in Milwaukie.
Three production shifts, running six days a week, turn out a line of goods distributed throughout North America, Asia and the Middle East.
The company earned an extra splash of international recognition when a team traveled to Scotland and, apparently feeling their oats, won the world’s porridge-making championship.
Employees, who are just now grasping the meaning of Moore’s birthday gift.
“It just shows how much faith and trust Bob has in us,” said Bo Thomas, the company’s maintenance superintendent, who has put his four children through college during his two decades there. “For all of us, it’s more than just a job. Obviously, it’s the same way for Bob, too.”
For Moore, meanwhile, nothing about the new arrangement will change a thing. He plans to do for the foreseeable future what he has done every day for decades.
“I may have given them the company,” he said, chuckling, “but the boss part is still mine.