There are not many historical places remaining from Boonville’s 162-year old past.
One structure that is still standing strong and even flourishing during tough economic times is the Boonville Flour and Feed Mill and Store.
The Boonville Flour and Feed Mill was built by Monroe Jones, his sons and W.P. Woodruff in 1880, according to history collected by the mill owners. Originally the mill was powered by a steam engine and boiler. By the 1920s it had been purchased by James Bray and was converted to a diesel engine and finally electric power. In the 1940s a feed mill was installed.
The mill has changed owners five times since it was built. It finally came to rest with the Phillips family when Sammie Phillips purchased it in October of 1979. It was passed on to Sammie’s son, Eugene, in August 2004 when he retired, and Eugene decided to take over.
“My daddy has been in [the flour mill business] since he was 13 years old and only left while he served a few years during World War II,” Eugene said. “It’s all I’ve ever done and when he got to be 80 years old he said he was going to retire and he was going to sell the business so I decided I would just stick it out a few more years.”
Eugene said that he’s been working in mills since he was young as well. He worked in Virginia mill owned by his father from 1969 to 1981 before coming to Boonville to join Sammie.
“Once it’s in your blood you don’t want to do anything else,” Eugene said.” It’s hard work but I would want to think about trying to do anything else right now.”
The mill still produces flour, corn meal, grits, horse feed, dairy feed, chicken feed and goat feed.
“The mill is electric power, but we still stone ground our corn meal,” Eugene said. “That’s the way they used to do it in the old days. That’s one of the reasons that people I like it I guess. We ground the grits on the stones too. The bigger mills ground them on a roller mill nowadays. People just like the stone ground a whole lot better.”
Eugene and his wife Vicki live in Floyd County, Va. After he came to work for Sammie in 1981 they would make the commute from Virginia to Boonville daily. In 2008 when gas prices were on the rise they decided to renovate the old general store that sits in front of the mill and reopen it as a general store once more with living quarters for them upstairs.
Vicki said that officials with the town of Boonville were very pleased to learn that the general store was going to be restored rather than torn down.
“Everybody in the community has just been so pleased because the building has been refurbished and everybody was so afraid it was going to be torn down and this is one of the last old buildings standing in the county,” Vicki said. “It was deteriorating pretty badly and that was another reason we decided to do it because you hate to tear down something that’s been here that long. We’re trying to leave it as original as possible.”
Now they spend the weekdays working the mill and living above the store and travel home to Virginia on the weekends.
“If we were open on the weekends we would probably get a lot more of the winery traffic because their looking for something else to do,” Vicki Phillips said. “You’ve got to have some family time though.”
The store features a variety of country themed items. The primary item is, of course, the mill’s flour, grits and corn meal products. Customers can also find jellies and jams, candies and snack foods, antique items, candles, baked goods, glass bottled sodas and other memorabilia.
“We looked at other produce stands and stuff to see what they carried and what they said sold best is what we did,” Vicki said. “We get a lot of stuff from Pennsylvania and Dutch Valley. We get some of our stuff from Georgia and I order some stuff off the Internet. People come in and ask you for something and we try to get it.”
Eugene and Vicki say that their business is growing and they stay busy with local customers as well as a large number of customers that they ship to. They also provide the meal that’s used to make Neese’s Sausage.
“We ship out a tremendous amount of stuff,” Vicki said. “. We’ve shipped to all 50 states except for Alaska. We always put a little brochure in the shipping so if they ever come to town they can stop by and see us.”
Eugene said that he hopes to see one of his children or grandchildren take over the mill one day. The staff at the meal currently consists of Sammie, Eugene, Vicki, Sammie’s daughter Linda Amburn, Eugene’s daughter Crystal Casstevens, Crystal’s son Curtis and Eugene’s son Kevin.
Vicki said that the general store has added new interest in the mill and she thinks that business will continue to improve as time goes on.
“If you’ve been in business this long you’re doing something right.”
Reach Lindsay Craven at 679-2341 or at email@example.com.