Readyville Mill Serves History and Hospitality
For those who like a side of history with their meals, Goodness Gracious at the Mill in Readyville is made to order. From the creaking of the original hardwood floor to the grain scale and dispensary in the dining room, a visit to the grist mill-turned-restaurant is a delicious trip back in time.
Built in 1812 by town founder Charles Ready, the Readyville Mill served many functions – grist mill, lumber operation, ice house and even a small power plant, generating electricity for the families in the small, rural town. The mill burned in the 1860s but was rebuilt around 1870, and for the next 100 years changed owners several times. In 1973, the mill was placed on the National Register of Historic Places but closed in 1978 after an unsuccessful preservation fundraising campaign.
The mill sat dormant and in disrepair until 2006, when Readyville native and millstone collector Tomm Brady bought and revived it. Brady spent years restoring the mill to its original condition before selling to current owner Karen Ford in spring of 2014.
“Tomm had the mill for five years. He collected millstones, and someone directed him to the river to find millstones, and that’s how he found this place,” Ford recalls. “It was in serious disrepair. Tomm found an original board in the attic and copied the color of the board when he painted the buildings. Over the years, he acquired all sorts of antiques and treasures to add to the décor. People have even dropped off antiques. I don’t know how Tomm had the vision to take [this project] on, but he did an amazing job, and it’s really a treasure now.”
A longtime restaurateur and caterer in neighboring Murfreesboro, Ford says she and her husband Bob were drawn to the mill’s history and tradition, as well as its breathtaking location.
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“We love the area. It’s beautiful. I like the calm, country setting along the river, and it’s close enough to town to be able to survive in this day and age,” Ford says. “I like the history, and you can’t help but feel like you’ve stepped back in time when you walk in here. I like that we’re able to carry on a tradition. We’re just caretakers carrying it on for the next set of people to come along.”
The original mill comprised several structures linked together, Ford says. The restaurant’s main dining room once served as the granary, and a secondary dining area was the mill’s ice house. The property also features the original miller’s cabin, a working grist mill, a restored smokehouse that was donated by a Cannon County resident, and a woodshop that Brady built for his son.
Goodness Gracious is open Friday through Sunday for breakfast and lunch. The mill itself has become a favored destination for history buffs, but those in the know come for the food – a hearty sampling of Southern goodness, including made-from-scratch biscuits, whole-wheat pancakes made from flour freshly ground in the mill and homemade corn cakes smothered in locally produced fruit preserves. In fact, Goodness Gracious sources from a number of local and regional growers and producers.
If You Go...
Location: 5418 Murfreesboro Rd., Readyville, TN
Phone: (615) 563-6455
Hours: 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Friday; 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Saturday; 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Sunday.
“We go to Orlinda to get our corn and wheat. Then we mill the corn and wheat and use the meal in most of our recipes,” Ford says. “That’s one thing that’s so great about being located here. I don’t have to go looking for anything. Farmers come to us with their eggs, tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans, squash, blackberries – all these amazing things. They come, pull up their trucks and bring it right to my door. And I just love that we’re able to help each other out.”
Ford’s son, Eric, serves as chef and miller, having studied under Brady, and her daughter Danielle coordinates events. The restaurant doubles as a venue for weddings, church luncheons, bridal showers and other special occasions.
“We’re more of a destination,” Ford says. “When we were on the square [in Murfreesboro], foot traffic brought people in. Now people come here on purpose. People enjoy observing the history here. [The mill] is very well-preserved for its age, and it’s been well taken care of through the years. People marvel at that.”