Old School Mill Interview
1) How long have you all been in business?
Old School Mill, Inc. was established in 1992 by David (1955-2010) and Robin Hinson. David bought an antique grist mill and began putting together what is now Old School Mill, Inc., on their family farm in Albemarle, NC. David worked relentlessly to install and engineer the mill and learned to produce some of the finest stone ground grits and corn meal on the market. David had the dream of producing quality foods with simple recipes and pure ingredients that tasted good. But grits and corn meal were not enough; David also formulated more than 25 additional specialty food products, creating the Old School Brand™ line of products. They began to sell their products to family, friends, and the local community through annual Open House events.
In the late 90’s, David and Robin started to cultivate the idea of opening a store to sell their wares. In 2001 they opened a country store, Old School Mill’s Fresh House, on the farm where they offered all Old School Brand™ products, all sorts of “old timey” snacks and candies, and some prepared foods. Due to a highway widening forced relocation, Old School Mill’s Fresh House moved to Locust, NC in 2005 and became a destination restaurant and store. In 2010, David succumbed to cancer, leaving Robin, daughter Ginny, and son Parker with the restaurant-country store and the milling businesses. To preserve his dad’s legacy, Parker took interest in growing Old School Brand™, working trade shows and learning the ins and outs of selling. He also relied on childhood memories of helping his Dad in the mill, to become a knowledgeable miller. In 2017, Robin closed the restaurant and store so the family could pursue Old School Brand™ full time. Currently Old School Mill, Inc. is operated full time by Robin, Parker, Parker’s wife Makayla, and long-time friend and coworker, Sherrie Mauldin. We feel blessed to work with family and friends.
While dating in the early 80’s, David and Robin Hinson visited Mabry Mill located along the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia. Inspired by the large mill, David became fascinated with antique milling equipment and milling operations. However, it was not until the late 80’s that David’s interest in milling was fully realized with the purchase the antique stone burr mill in use today. For current generation, Parker and Makayla met at a trade show—she was selling candy, he was selling grits across the aisle and well, love bloomed!
3) Besides your mixes, what other kitchen tools do you think are essential for baking?
Besides standard kitchen equipment (mixer, measuring cups and spoons, wooden spoons), we think a seasoned cast iron skillet is a must for a tasty pan of cornbread. Also, I find a pastry blender most handy for homemade biscuits and pie crusts.
4) What's your favorite mix?
It is hard to pick a favorite from our mixes! If I we had to pick one, I would say our Cobbler Mix, because of its versatility and simplicity. Whenever we need a quick dessert for a potluck, to give to someone, or for personal enjoyment this is our “go to,” and it always gets compliments!
5) Grits seem to be hit or miss with some of our customers yet it’s a huge part of your line. What's the secret to making a good pot of grits?
We believe the secret to tasty grits is to not be afraid to over cook them. The longer you cook the grits, the better they taste! Also, we do not skimp on butter and salt. Another tip: don’t be afraid to add other ingredients to your grits like cheeses (our favorites are mild cheddar and cream cheese) or salty meats (bacon or country ham)--both add a lot of flavor.
6) You all still run a retail storefront, too?
No, we closed our retail storefront at the end of 2017 to focus on providing Old School Brand products to other retailers. We do sell to customers on our website, oldschool.com and through fine specialty retailers. Jon Henry General Store is one of those retailers!
7) It seems like you are quite busy packing, working, baking, etc. When you get some free time, any hobbies?
We all spend our free time a little differently. Robin loves to read, work out in her yard, and is involved at Church; Parker and Makayla love traveling.
8) Where did the name come for the brand?
In the 1990’s the local elementary school (located about 1 mile away the Hinson Family Farm) was being torn down and rebuilt. This school held a special place in David’s heart because it is where both he and his Dad attended elementary school. David wanted to preserve his memory of his former school, and he was interested in preserving foods and recipes “prepared in the ways passed down from ‘The Old School.’” The name “Old School” was a perfect fit when deciding a company name. David created and drew multiple product labels. His first product, Molasses (produced on their farm), showcased the old elementary school on the label.
9) How do you all go about sourcing your ingredients?
We try to use the purest and highest quality ingredients for our mixes. We source raw sugar, evaporated cane sugar, and natural unbleached flour for our mixes. For our white grits and cornmeal products, we work with local farmers in the Carolinas to provide us with an heirloom Non-GMO white corn.
10) Anything exciting for the new year?
We are excited to announce a new mix coming soon--stay tuned—and we have recently added Hot Cocoa Mix and Cheese Straws to our line. On the personal side, Robin is extremely excited to become a grandma this year! Daughter, Ginny, and son-in-law Rani, are expecting a daughter May 2021. Life is good!