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Lincoln Square, North Center, Irving Park

Man Who Started Stone Mill Flour Business In Garage Partnering With Lincoln Square’s Baker Miller

Business is booming for Benjamin Holland of True Grain Artisan Miller. So much so, it's time to move out of his North Park garage.

Benjamin Holland launched True Grain Artisan Miller out of his North Park garage April 2.
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LINCOLN SQUARE — Thanks to the popularity of his artisan flour, the owner of True Grain Artisan Miller is expanding his operation out of his North Park garage and taking over the back room at Lincoln Square’s Baker Miller.

Benjamin Holland was a video producer whose business was slowed by the stay at home order. In early April, he decided to use his extra time to turn his hobby, stone milling flour, into a business.

The timing was right. With people stuck at home, amateur bakers got busy in their kitchen, making fresh flour a hot commodity. Holland’s business boomed. He said an April 13 Block Club Chicago story about him spiked sales even more.

It was time to move out his garage.

“Since the Block Club article went live I’ve gone through over 3,000 pounds of grain,” Holland said. “It was getting to be a bit too much to sell from my garage. My neighbors were pretty nice about it but I knew it was time to move out.”

So, beginning May 25, customers will be able to buy Holland’s flour from Baker Miller online and in its Lincoln Square location at 4655 N. Lincoln Ave.

The two businesses are still independent of each other, and Holland will continue to sell his flour on his own site.

Teaming up with Baker Miller is the result of mutual admiration — and mutual need. Holland needed space. Baker Miller had some because of the dine-in ban. It also needed flour.

Holland searched for a spot for awhile, looking at local breweries and other businesses with space. Last week, Holland stopped by Baker Miller and introduced himself to co-owner Dave Miller. 

“I’d read about him on Block Club and after I picked his brain a little bit, I realized he really has what it takes to be successful. And his bread flour is very, very good,” Miller said. 

Miller has extra room in the back of the business that would have otherwise been used for sit-down dining. Miller has also been selling retail goods, including flour, alongside his menu items. But he was running into supply issues.

“It’s been insane. We were running out of flour because everyone keeps hitting up the mills at the same time,” Miller said. “I don’t see the grain running out but the issue is the mills can only produce so much flour at a time, which keeps running out because so many people are buying it.”

Having Holland set up shop in Baker Miller will mean Miller will have a steady supply of high-quality flour for his customers. 

“We’re also going to incorporate his flour into the delivery system we’ve set up to people’s homes,” Miller said. “My hope is to see True Grain grow as a company and hopefully stay in Chicago.”

Since launching last month, True Grain customers have sent Holland kind notes and dozens of pictures of the bread and other baked goods they’ve made using his flour, Holland said. And he’s excited to work with Miller since he’s been a fan of his for a while.

“This has been a dream for me for a long time and I didn’t know how possible it was,” Holland said. “Now I’m setting up my mill in Lincoln Square.”

While he’s been busy setting up the business, he’s also been planning to eventually offer experimental flours his customers may not have tried before. 

“I think that is an example of what is going to make my urban mill special,” Holland said. “Many amazing small stone mills are very traditional in their way of milling. But I’m more inspired by the craft beer movement where you set tradition aside and see what can we make.”

Holland was on a camping trip a few years ago in Iceland when he came across a food smoked in northern alder wood. He describes the smoke flavor as having a rich nuttiness that isn’t as overpowering as some other wood smokes. 

Once home, he figured out how to cold smoke whole wheat berries and grind them into flour in a way that doesn’t damage the flour’s baking properties. 

“It’s taste is similar to a wood-fired bread, but the subtle smoked flavor is spread evenly throughout the entire bread crumb when you use this flour,” he said. “As far as I know no one else has done this. And I just want to keep pushing the envelope a little bit with flours like these.”

While the smoked flour isn’t available yet, once Holland is up and running to supply Baker Miller with the flour it needs, he plans to experiment more and start offering those speciality flours to customers. 

“Talking with Dave I’ve found someone who shared my love for milling. And he’s introducing me to more people and giving me lots of good tips and pointers from when he used to mill flour,” Holland said.


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