King's Milling facility
King Milling’s 125th anniversary gala celebrates the past, looks optimistically toward the future.

In its 125 years as one of the United States’ leading milling companies, King Milling has survived two world wars, the Great Depression, a fire that destroyed its mill in 1943, several major floods, record-high wheat prices in the early 1970s, the recent global economic collapse, and the premature deaths of several key leaders of the family business.

Statistically speaking, surviving all these hardships through five generations puts Lowell, Mich.-based King Milling in very select company. During a banquet commemorating the company’s 125th anniversary on Sept. 12, Brian Doyle, president of King Milling, put the company’s longevity in perspective.

“Only 33% make it to the second generation, only 11% make it to the third generation, and only 3% make it to the fourth,” he said. “And they don’t have any stats beyond that because there are so few family businesses that make it to the fifth generation and beyond. So we are very happy to have made it this far.”

Or as Brian’s cousin, Jim Doyle, senior vice-president of King Milling, put it: “125 years: Not bad for a company that was purchased at a bankruptcy sale (for $20,000). Talk about humble beginnings. Any business, let alone a family one, surviving 125 years has much to celebrate.”

And celebrate they did, as more than 200 people attended the ceremony at Notos restaurant in Grand Rapids, Mich., including dozens of current and former King Milling employees, suppliers, customers, local and state government officials, friends and family members.

“We’ve been baking bread with King Milling flour for 73 years,” said Cindy Havard, chief operating officer and chief financial officer of Grand Rapids-based Coles Quality Foods. “They are a fabulous vendor and are fabulous to work with. You don’t find the quality of people any better than you do at King Milling. The Doyles are wonderful.”

Rene Steiner, who represented King Milling’s primary milling equipment supplier, Bühler Inc., at the event, said his company also has a special long-term relationship with the Doyle family.

“Culture-wise, King Milling and Bühler are very similar in that they are family-owned businesses that are mainly interested in long-term investments, not just a short-term profit,” Mr. Steiner said. “We do whatever we can for the long-term success of our company and so does King Milling.”