By Al Zehnder, CEO of Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth
About 1847, brothers Johann George and Johann Mathias Hubinger built a dam of logs and stones across the Cass River (at the same spot as the current rock ramp) in hopes of generating enough power to operate a flour and lumber mill. The Hubinger brothers came from a family in Germany that had been in the milling business for 200 years. Machinery for flour milling was imported from Germany and the Hubingers opened that business in 1848. Prior to that, local farmers had to take their wheat, oats, and corn to Flint for milling.
The Mill operated successfully for years creating a ready market for local agricultural products. A fire in 1909, caused by an exploding kerosene lamp, resulted in extensive damage. The Mill closed for repairs and was open once again for business in 1910.
By 1921, the Hubinger family sold their milling operation, known as Frankenmuth Milling Co., to their competition, Star of the West Milling Company. Star of the West was founded in 1870 and operated just north of downtown Frankenmuth. Star of the West operated the mill until 1956. In 1956, Star of the West sold the mill and property to Frankenmuth Brewing Company who deemed it obsolete and an eyesore and demolished the building. The property on which the Mill stood was given to the City of Frankenmuth.
In the early 1980’s, local business leaders formed a group to recreate that mill as a celebration of the community’s milling heritage. The new mill, a recreation of the 1910 mill, named Nickless-Hubinger Flour Mill and Store was opened in 1984. The wood flooring installed on the first floor was left over from the 1910 mill construction.
The milling of wheat and a variety of grains was more of an historical demonstration as opposed to a serious commercial venture. The investors ultimately donated the Mill to the Frankenmuth Historical Association and the land remained the property of the City of Frankenmuth.
A variety of retail concepts operated in the east side (lower side) of the mill until the last one left in about 2017; the mill remained vacant for about 3 years.
The maintenance and upkeep of the Mill became a burden for the Historical Association and they, along with the City of Frankenmuth, decided to sell their mutual interests in the mill in 2021.
Given its close proximity to our other properties, just south of Zehnder’s Restaurant and bordering on the Cass River and Zehnder Park, we were immediately interested in acquiring the mill which we did in early 2022.
We are excited to be caretakers of this historic symbol of Frankenmuth and look forward to determining how it will best fit into our family of businesses.
I’ll keep you posted.
Al Zehnder, CEO
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