200-year-old Arva Flour Mill sold, will continue to operate with some modern twists
The mill is the oldest continuously operating commercial mill in North America
The Arva Flour Mill has been sold to a London businessman who vows to continue operating the business, as well as expanding to make gluten-free flour, and possibly add a distillery or winery.
"Every time I've been on the property, it brings me joy," said the new owner, Mark Rinker, who takes over the mill from Mike Matthews, whose family has operated the business for four generations, since 1919.
"It's a very special place for me," Rinker told CBC News, adding that his father's family had strong ties to Arva and that he used to visit the property as a young man.
When the water-powered flour mill went up for sale earlier this summer, there was interest from developers in Toronto, Vancouver and China. Rinker's vision is to keep the mill operating, while adding some new twists.
"I want the mill to stay open, I want the 200-year history to continue. It's Canada's sixth-oldest business, which floors me," Rinker told CBC News. "It's such a beautiful piece of land and I'm going to take the responsibility to steward the land 100 per cent, keep it operating the way it's always been operating. I want to preserve the legacy of the business and the property."
Rinker has hired someone who knows how to use the original machinery, something Matthews previously had to do himself.
"Mark's vision to respect and continue the legacy of what our family has built over the last 100 years was most important to us," Matthews said. "We're thrilled that the mill will continue to operate and is in local hands."
New automation will be brought in to mill gluten-free flours, which can't be done in the historic facility.
"It's a big industry in Canada — the flour business is a $2.3 billion business," Rinker said.
Winery, distillery possible
The microclimate on the property and the slope on the land could make it a perfect place for Middlesex County's first winery, Rinker said. He's worked with a soil analyst from Brock University to work out possibilities for the three acres of grass on the property. Another idea is a distillery, using the grain that comes into the mill, Rinker said.
"My vision is that I can see additional retailers on the premises, farm to table partners, who can create more of a destination for folks who want a baker, a butcher, organic produce."
The water mill turbine will be repurposed to pair with a generator so the property can be a net-zero carbon producer, Rinker said.