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Click on the link provided here to watch the story: Buda Back in the Day - Buda Mill & Grain Video
To call the revitalization of the Buda Mill & Grain a labor of Love would be an understatement.
"How many places have a piece of property that is on an old grain mill and can be revitalized into something that’s commercial property,” said Saenger Ellis, Buda Mill & Grain Company Owner.
The history behind this treasure on South Main runs deep through the veins of Buda Mill & Grain Owners Dodi Ellis and her son Saenger Ellis.
“My mom inherited this from her Dad and her Dad Cecil Ruby had bought this in 1963. When he passed away my Dad oversaw it and then my mom,” said Dodi Ellis.
Dodi’s mother Gay Dahlstrom passed away in 2014. Ms. Dahlstrom always knew this place was special.
“It was these dilapidated old barns and she could see that, but she was in love with this piece of history that was Buda.I feel like we’re part of Buda’s collective memory. That’s one of the reasons we saved the original footprints. We didn’t alter any of that. We kept the same buildings in the same places.”
The transformation of the mill and grain is a project that has been years in the making.
“While we were cleaning it up we had someone stop by and ask for a piece of scrap metal. I said what to do you want that for? He said scrap prices are through the roof right now. And then this light went off in my head. You can sell metal," said Saenger Ellis. “I took the next month and sold several hundred thousand pounds of scrap metal. It was enough to get us the architects and engineers.”
Old rails from the railroad track were even found while Dodi and Saenger were trenching for wastewater and electrical. Union Pacific had a contract with the mill and grain dating back to 1911. Many are now used as car stops in the parking lot and show dates from 1916.
To give you an idea of just how important Buda Mill and Grain was back in the day, it was the first business in Buda to receive a telephone, even before the doctor’s office or the grocery store.
Dodi and Saenger knew they wanted to stay true to the original look and feel of the mill and grain. That’s where the historic structures on the property come in.
The brick building on the property was the second cotton gin in Buda and it was built between 1911 and 1914. Originally the building was hidden by four silos, but they have since been removed.
The Assemblage Contemporary Craftsman Gallery shares the brick wall from the Cotton Gin.
“We found out as we were working on it that it was built with Butler brick that they purchased from the Zilker Park Brick Factory. So we love that continuity in Austin,“ said Dodi Ellis.
Buda Mill and Grain used to be called The Buda Gin Company, but when the cotton industry took a dive during the Great Depression, local farmers began converting their places to dairies.
“There were migrant workers coming through these areas working at different areas. That’s how they decided to do the mill and grain to feed the cows.”
That’s when the name changed to Buda Mill and Company and eventually Buda Mill and Grain Company.
Although it’s currently unoccupied, the old cotton gin will serve as a future restaurant space.
Nearby, is what used to be the old feed store. Believe it or not, people still call asking for baby chicks or horse feed. Ellipses is now housed in part of the building.
Wood was salvaged from the floors in the feed store. It can now be seen in the dressing rooms in Ellipsis and inside the Buda Bike Company and Stella’s Boutique.
Both the Buda Bike Co. and Stella’s are located in what was a hay barn. Dodi and Saenger kept the original footprint of the barn and a new window was put in on the south end of the building looking out at the silos.
Nate’s is a popular hangout now, but it also used to be an old barn.
“Nate’s is actually named after Nate Smith because he lived down the street over on Rose. He was the tenant leasing this space. They were all hobby shops,” said Saenger Ellis.
The original wooden walls and original truss work is still intact. The concrete floor also tells a story.
“When you go into Nate’s you will see this line of concrete which is a different color. That’s where the augers were and every building had them.”
Augers were used to move the grain through the buildings and some were buried in the concrete floors.
“They had another level up in the peak of the roofs that ran through all the buildings and then they had a two inch molasses line. They mixed the grain with molasses to make cattle field. The sign that we have outside is where they would mix the molasses with the grain and then bag it.”
Speaking of molasses, Dodi and Saenger discovered a space beneath the porch of the Mill that had originally been storage for molasses. In the early 90’s Dodi’s parents moved their office to this building. Hard to believe, but the old mill is now home to Salon 112.
Down the way is Sweet Cakes 4 U. Dodi’s Grandfather Cecil Ruby used this space as his office. Inside you’ll find the original wooden floors.
Next to the bakery where the patio is currently located was a large scale that was used to measure a truck's weight. You can still see the outline of it.
On the back end of the building you will find Willow Gardens Hot Yoga. This is actually a new building.
When it comes to the largest barn on the property, the entire steel frame has been saved and its look has been modernized. The Buda Mill & Grain Signage was also added.
"We’ve really been selective on who we put in here because we want it to be a place people keep coming back for,” said Dodi Ellis.
At the end of the day, it’s all about staying true to the history of the Buda Mill & Grain and its legacy here in Buda.
“My parents grew up in Buda. They lived on ranches along 967. You don’t often get to come home and still work with those same people. It was quite a legacy.”