Remembering Bob Moore

The passing of Bob Moore prompted a widespread, bittersweet response across industry, news, and consumer networks. An abundance of shared memories, heartfelt tributes, and personal photographs were exchanged. Each image captured Bob’s genuine warmth and his penchant for connecting with others.  Stories include his tradition of opening Expo West trade show by strolling through the aisles with a brass parade band, Bob playing vibrant ragtime tunes on piano after hosting a mill tour, book signings with personal inscriptions, pausing to take a photograph with an employee or business partner, and the way he would greet customers in the aisles of store visits with warm smiles. It was evident to all who knew him that Bob held a deep affection for people and his heart was filled with fun, passion and purpose.

Bob’s story is one of resilience, and it’s the kind of story that draws all of us to listen and admire. A Rocky Balboa-like tale of pure grit, determination, and keeping his eye on the prize to bring whole grain nutrition to the masses. Yet, behind every great individual stands a supportive network, and Bob was no exception. His wife, Charlee, stood as a steadfast companion, sharing in his dreams and offering unwavering support every step of the way. Beyond his immediate circle, Bob extended gratitude to every individual involved in bringing Bob’s Red Mill products from field to table, recognizing the collective effort that fueled the company’s growth into an international powerhouse.

Bob loved automobiles and loved to tinker with machinery, and after he met and married Charlee he attempted to support his young family with a gas station in the mountains of Northern California. However, an exceptionally snowy season crippled the roads and eventually forced Bob to close up the business. The Moores had to start over, and Charlee resourcefully fueled the family with meals made from simple whole grains. Then, one fateful day while browsing the public library, Bob stumbled across his destiny in the form of a book titled John Goffe’s Mill by George Woodbury which detailed his journey running an inherited grain mill. Deeply impacted by the story-  “The public beat a path to his [sic] door”- Bob made the decision to build a mill door of his own. 

With millstones secured and the building constructed, the vision became a reality. His timing was good too, as in the 1970’s wholesome foods were increasingly replaced with processed foods on expanding supermarket shelves. The emergence of the natural foods movement signaled a response in opposition to this trend. And as Bob imagined, the public indeed beat a path to his mill door. Business hummed and grew for many years until one day in 1980 the door and everything behind it burned down. An arsonist set the mill on fire, and all Bob and Charlee and their family and employees could do was watch their dream turn to ashes. However, the millstones were salvaged so they re-built, aided by the community and cheered on by their customers.

Under Bob’s leadership, Bob’s Red Mill thrived, uniting employees, customers, business partners, and consumers in their shared dedication to whole grains. Having personally had the privilege of attending the annual Bob’s Red Mill Broker Breakfast at Expo West, I can attest to the warmth and camaraderie present at each gathering. Amidst the accolades, updates, and business insights, Bob’s heartfelt address reflected his awe and gratitude as the company grew and expanded each year. Despite fluctuations in the natural products industry, Bob remained resolute in preserving its core value of providing nutritious, whole grain foods to communities worldwide. And, to symbolically remind us all to keep working our part to support the mission, we were each gifted a limited edition of a Bob Moore bobble head. One year it was a spurtle to expertly stir award-winning oats in our own kitchens.  

Over the years, Bob’s Red Mill pivoted in response to changing consumer needs. When Bob opened the dedicated gluten free mill room with in house testing, he did an incredible service to many people with gluten intolerance who could reliably incorporate whole grains back into their diets without fear of contamination. And when the company transitioned their entire line from a form and fill packaging to a resealable gusseted bag- that may have been Bob’s equivalent of the invention of the iPhone. Life-changing. But for those of us who supported the transition along the way, we got through it and it’s still the same wholesome foods that now appeal to greater and wider audiences. Bob’s Red Mill continues to adapt to changing consumer needs with some convenience-style products, but all the while never straying from the mission of whole grain goodness.

We at PRESENCE are so fortunate to have been along for the ride in helping to build Bob’s across retail and distribution, and in continued partnership as we journey forward with the Bob’s Red Mill Team. Many of us have visited the mill in Milwaukie, Oregon, guided by Bob himself. I was fortunate to have attended a tour shortly after they moved the mill to a larger facility, and as Bob guided us around, he still seemed awestruck by all that he, and the collective “we”- all built. I remember him wide-eye looking at the rows and rows of newly acquired warehouse space- his eyes somewhere between achievement and entrepreneurial fear (side note- that fear was quickly alleviated by the scores of business that soon followed). There were plenty of memories during that visit one that particularly stands out is that during the visit it became increasingly evident that I was in the company of a local celebrity. After the tour Bob took us to the restaurant in the adjacent building, and almost immediately he was surrounded by (mostly) women who wanted to meet him. Charlee must have gotten used to having a celebrity-like husband, politely fending off the women. But it was charming and Bob handled the attention with grace. Bob would also go on tours of his own to retail stores, and experienced his celebrity-like status in the aisles. He would warmly accept the attention, autograph books, chat for a bit, and make every customer feel seen and heard.

Bob and Charlee were guided by the spiritual  principle of treating others as they would wish to be treated. When thinking about where to plant the seeds for their legacy they had numerous options, but again followed their healthy gut instincts. Rather than pursue traditional exit strategies, on Bob’s 81st birthday they opted to transition ownership of the company to employees through an ESOP program. They also donated $25 million to establish the Bob and Charlee Moore Institute for Nutrition & Wellness at Oregon Health and Sciences University. By doing so they ensured the viability of their mission of wholesome nutrition and wellness would continue to impact future generations. 

Bob Moore’s passing marks the conclusion of a remarkable story – one in which many of us have played a part, whether as members of the consumer collective or as contributors to the company’s growth. Yet, Bob’s legacy and generosity pave the way for a sequel, inviting each of us to continue his vision.

We can honor Bob by reflecting on the stories and individuals that have inspired us, reshaping our paths and guiding us toward new horizons.
We can honor Bob by expressing gratitude to those who have supported our aspirations, recognizing both their significant contributions and the smaller gestures that have made a difference.
We can honor Bob through exploration of hidden treasures in the most unseemingly of places.
We can honor Bob by consuming wholesome whole grains, savoring the nutrients provided by the earth.
And we can honor Bob by  trusting instincts and contemplating our legacy, ensuring that our journey reflects the values and principles that we strive to achieve.

To Our Collective Good Health!

If I had to pick one thing about my life that stands above all others, it would be the people. I love them all. I just love them.

Written by Shari Stern, National Brand Manager for PRESENCE.
Worked in partnership with Bob’s Red Mill for 20+ years
Certified Life-Cycle Celebrant