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Wauneta Roller Mill's new young owners will retain old-time milling methods
by Gene O. Morris
Prospective buyers from many parts of the United States came to look at the last small flour mill still in operation in Nebraska, so it was a big surprise when the eventual purchasers of the mill turned out to be a young couple from Wauneta, Nebraska, the very town where the mill is located.
Rogan Einspahr, who was born and raised in the Wauneta area, and his wife, Ashley, have purchased the 87-year-old Wauneta Roller Mill from the Maxfield family.
“We’re tickled pink,” said Emma Jean Maris, a member of the Maxfield family which had owned and operated the mill since 1925. To help get the word out about the mill’s availability for sale, Nebraska Rural Living ran a story in early 2011 under the headline, “Buy yourself a little piece of Nebraska history at Wauneta’s Roller Mill.”
“A number of people came to look, including people from Oregon, Indiana and Kansas,” Emma Jean said, “but we couldn’t be happier and prouder that the buyers came from right here at home. Rogan and Ashley are wonderful people and they are doing a good job of learning the business.”
Carrying on the tradition
The good news for the mill's customers in Nebraska and Colorado is that the mill will continue to operate in the future much as it has in the past. "The mill is blessed to have a foundation of loyal customers," Rogan said. "They tell us the flour and feed the mill produces is as good as they can get anywhere."
Because of that, Einspahr's top priority since taking over ownership in January has been working with Jim Maxfield to learn the art and science of flour milling. It's a three-step process, using milling equipment which has served the firm continuously since it was founded by Jim's grandfather in the mid-1920s.
"The milling equipment still works well and parts are readily available," Jim Maxfield said. As a result, Einspahr said it's not worth investing in new milling equipment at an estimated cost of $2 million.
Expanding the markets
While Rogan concentrates on mastering flour-making techniques, his wife Ashley will begin exploring the best ways to market the Wauneta Mill's products through a website and other promotional methods. She is employed by the Champa Group where she designs and prints products such as posters, cards and artwork. Rogan, 30, and Ashley, 29, are the parents of two children: Addalyn, 3, and Riley, 7 months.
The Wauneta Mill's principal product—in the future as in the past—will be Wauneta's Best Flour. It is produced in 10-pound, 25-pound and 50-pound cloth sacks, as well as 50-pound paper bags. The other part of the mill's business is feed.
Most of the feed products are marketed in Southwest Nebraska and Eastern Colorado, while flour is sold through two regional wholesale companies, Cashway and Thompson's, to grocery stores, bakeries and other retail customers in western, central and eastern Nebraska.
In addition to Jim Maxfield, the other mill employees are Tracy Hackney, who works in the office, and Jim Beacham, who delivers products and picks up wheat for milling in Eastern Colorado. Together with Rogan and Ashley, this is the new team for an old style mill which continues to turn out the best flour and feed products in this part of the country.
Jean (Maxfield) Maris, who still assists with formulations, couldn’t be happier with the new owners. Here's betting that, over the next few months and years, Wauneta Roller Mill customers will be just as happy with the mill's quality and customer service.