West Knoxville bread company bakes up success for nearly two dec

West Knoxville bread company bakes up success for nearly two decades

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The Old Mill Bread Company on Cedar Bluff Road has been baking bread and making friends for years. The Old Mill Bread Company on Cedar Bluff Road has been baking bread and making friends for years.
"In a former life, I was a polymer chemist," owner Jim Gay explained. With that chemistry background, he's created recipes, or formulas, for the all the breads made at Old Mill Bread Company. "In a former life, I was a polymer chemist," owner Jim Gay explained. With that chemistry background, he's created recipes, or formulas, for the all the breads made at Old Mill Bread Company.
"It'll range probably from nine to 11 different breads. Some we repeat because our whole wheat is our number one selling bread," Janet Gay explained. "It'll range probably from nine to 11 different breads. Some we repeat because our whole wheat is our number one selling bread," Janet Gay explained.
The store offers fresh, daily baked bread and it's made entirely from scratch. They even grind their wheat flour. The store offers fresh, daily baked bread and it's made entirely from scratch. They even grind their wheat flour.
The couple and their staff bake 1,000 to 1500 loaves a day, five days a week.  The process takes seven hours from grinding the wheat, to mixing the dough and allowing it to rise, cutting it to size, proofing it, and finally baking it. The couple and their staff bake 1,000 to 1500 loaves a day, five days a week. The process takes seven hours from grinding the wheat, to mixing the dough and allowing it to rise, cutting it to size, proofing it, and finally baking it.
By GENE PATTERSON
6 News Anchor/Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - The Old Mill Bread Company on Cedar Bluff Road has been baking bread and making friends for years.

"We started the Old Mill Bread Company 18 years ago, 1995, and we're about to have our 19th birthday," said owner Jim Gay.

He and his wife Janet are originally from Indiana..They decided, later in life, to change their lives. That, of all things, led them to Tennessee and bread making.
      
"Pretty much everything we do here is no longer a recipe. It's a formula," Jim said.

That should not surprise anyone who knows Jim's background.

"In a former life, I was a polymer chemist," he explained. With that chemistry background, he's created recipes, or formulas, for the all the breads made at Old Mill Bread Company.

"It'll range probably from nine to 11 different breads. Some we repeat because our whole wheat is our number one selling bread," Janet explained.

Janet grew up in the furniture business and intended to stay in it, but a conversation with a friend who owned a bakery and the desire to do something new as the couple grew older led them to this.
   
"It's a different animal from what either of us had ever been involved in. It's labor intensive. It requires a lot of customer contact," she said.

Customer Avery Clark discovered the store five years ago. He says taste is only part of the reason he buys the Gays' bread.

"I guess the choice word would be no preservatives, wholesome, it's healthy," Clark told us.

The store offers fresh, daily baked bread and it's made entirely from scratch. They even grind their wheat flour.

"It's better because it's not aged," Jim explained. "When you age flour, you take all the vitamins that are oxidized. They're not as potent. You don't get the same taste. The enzymes are better. All that - fresh is better."

The couple and their staff bake 1,000 to 1500 loaves a day, five days a week.

The process takes seven hours from grinding the wheat, to mixing the dough and allowing it to rise, cutting it to size, proofing it, and finally baking it.

The bread will show up on the dinner tables of area restaurants, on the shelves of local grocery stores and in the hundreds of homes that eat only Old Mill bread.

A few years back, the couple added soups and sandwiches as part of the daily fare, but it's still the bread that gets people in the door time and time again.

"We know their names. They send us Christmas cards. It's a family business. And not just my wife and I but family with the people who come in here," Jim said.

Despite being at this Cedar Bluff location for nearly 20 years, Jim and Janet say new customers discover them every week and wonder why they never noticed them before.

The couple considered franchising and even opened a couple of other stores a few years back, but decided bigger is not always better.

Now they're content to operate this country store in the middle of busy Cedar Bluff Road, baking bread made in Tennessee.

More online: Old Mill Bread Company on Facebook

If you know of a product we should profile for Made in Tennessee, send Gene Patterson an email or a Facebook message.
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