The Mill has been grinding grain along the banks of the South Anna River in Ashland, Virginia since 1740. Back then, area landowners and farmers including a young Patrick Henry would bring grains from their nearby plantations for milling.
Todd is the official Attkisson in charge today and he represents the fifth generation of Attkissons to have worked in milling. The family’s history with the Ashland Mill dates back to the late 1940s. Howard L Attkisson, Todd’s grandfather, had been the manager of the Mill for 15 years and in 1954, he purchased what was then Newman’s Mill and changed the name to Ashland Roller Mills.
Although the Mill itself has been in continuous operation for over 200 years, Howard Attkisson incorporated it as Ashland Milling Company in 1966 and business was booming. With a devotion to the family business paired with a dedication to the Mill, Howard and his son Linwood created a niche market in the late 1970s when giant companies were monopolizing the milling business.
In order to survive, Ashland Milling had to develop a new market strategy and father and son did just that. Instead of continuing to produce flour, meal and feed for central Virginia’s country stores, the Mill began to focus on mixes and products used or sold by restaurants, schools and grocery chains in Virginia. By developing custom products and batter mixes for local favorites, Ashland Mill managed to survive and thrive.
“We’ve always focused on quality of service,” says Linwood Attkisson, Todd’s father who officially took over the mill in 1976. “If you’re a small business, you’ve got to have a good product and good service.”
With a steady flow of business, things were going well. Then on April 15, 1980 the Mill burned to the water line. The blaze was so hot it melted lenses on fire truck lights and burned fire hoses. The building was 90 years old and “we always knew it could happen, it was very old wood and mostly heart pine,” says Linwood who was president of the company at the time.
He didn’t even wait for the embers to cool before before he began redesigning the water-powered grain mill. The turbines that had powered the mill were deep in the water, too deep to be damaged by the fire. On those turbines, the Attkissons started to rebuild. Todd Attkisson left college to help his father shoulder the burden of rebuilding the mill and the business. Both father and son look back on the fire as a blessing in disguise. “It gave us an opportunity to rebuild the mill and put in new, state-of-the-art equipment,” says Linwood.
In 2005, the Attkissons purchased Byrd Mill, and converted the 260-year-old business (now located next door) into a mixing mill, where they produce baking mixes for private labels and distributors.
In that same year, Linwood handed over the business to Todd.
Over the last few years, we have added more batter mixes to our line of products and we now offer southern flavorings, extracts and spices, snack foods and specialty gift boxes. Our unique range of products and homemade flavors offer a true taste of southern cuisine.
Todd is the official president these days but Linwood still enjoys coming in to work every day. He wants to be a resource for Todd as his father was for him. And when it comes time to turn over the business to someone new, Todd’s oldest son has stepped forward. “We’re happy to keep the mill in the family,” says Todd.