Mike and Karin Nabors of Neighbor’s Mill Bakery and Cafe
By Robert J. Korpella
First posted on 11-13-2007
We knead your dough
Even before opening the oversized, solid wood entry door, the inviting aroma of fresh baked bread tickles the nose and beckons an invitation to come on in.
Neighbor’s Mill Bakery and Café in Harrison, Arkansas is owned and operated by Mike and Karin Nabors. “It has always been a dream of ours to run a restaurant,” Mike explained. And after a long career with Mass Merchandisers, the couple is now living that dream.
The bread (which, by the way, tastes at least as good as it smells) is baked fresh daily from chemical-free wheat Neighbor’s buys from a farm in Montana. The staff then cuts the grain into fine particles in a grist mill they have on site. Cutting the grain this way, Mike explained, preserves more of the nutritional value than if it had been pulverized as occurs in most flour grinding processes.
Mike told us that he purchased the mill about thirty years ago because it was an interesting piece of equipment. “At the time,” he said, “I had no idea what I was going to do with it.”
Consisting of two large stones positioned only about as far apart as a sheet of notebook paper, the grist mill is now a crucial part of the bakery business at Neighbor’s Mill.
Aside from around a hundred thousand loaves of bread, a quarter million muffins plus many more thousands of cookies and pies the Mill will produce and sell this year, Neighbor’s is much more than a bakery. Open at 7:00 am Monday through Saturday, Neighbor’s Mill starts the day with a breakfast grill menu. An ample offering of hot or cold sandwiches plus soups, salads and focaccia pizzas are made fresh for lunch through dinner.
Neighbor’s Mill is open until 8:00 pm Mondays through Thursdays, and until 9:00 pm on Fridays and Saturdays.
The Avocado Turkey sandwich served on spinach feta bread was excellent, especially when paired with a generous serving of 5 Star Mushroom Soup. But Mike said that by far and away the best selling sandwich was the Honey Pecan Chicken Salad. It has become a favorite of local customers as well as travelers to, and those passing through Harrison. Mike told us that about a quarter of his customers are travelers.
Mike’s background is in human resources and he spent a large part of his career at Mass Merchandisers in Harrison. Karin is a bookkeeper by occupation and the pair’s talents compliment each other as they divide the workload. Mike handles the operations part of the business while Karin handles the financial portion. But they consult and discuss on major decisions.
Customers order from a large
assortment of baked goods.
Like the construction of the building itself. Mike and Karin discussed a number of options including whether to combine the restaurant with a gift shop and an inn, even what the structure should look like. During a visit to the Chicago area, Karin found an old mill and persuaded Mike to take a look. It was perfect. They were able to replicate the look of the Grauv Mill in Oak Brook, Illinois for the design of Neighbor’s Mill.
The Mill is not Mike and Karin’s first experience in the restaurant business. After leaving Mass Merchandisers in the mid-1990’s, the Nabors purchased the Dairy Queen in Harrison. They owned that business for six years and built it into the number one franchise in the Springfield area market, of which Harrison is a part.
Owning the DQ also gave them a chance to learn the industry and decide on the next venture. As the Mill started to gel from an idea to a pursuit, Mike and Karin visited a baker in Little Rock to see a commercial bread-making operation. The baker also gave them his recipes for baked breads.
Neighbor’s Mill was officially opened for business in August, 2000 and now has grown to 8 full-time and 30 part-time employees. The Mill produces its signature breads not only for the restaurant but also for several grocers in the Branson and Hollister areas.
“Wednesdays are a big baking day,” Mike said. “Karin and I make the Branson deliveries each week and have ourselves a date night in Branson at the same time.”
Mike and Karin Nabors, owners
of Neighbor’s Mill Bakery and Cafe
Neighbor’s Mill also features smoked meats from Ozark Mountain Smokehouse, a well-known Harrison business, in their sandwiches and for sale in the restaurant. Purchases of meats, cheeses, muffins and baked goods are to the right when entering the Mill.
To the left is the ordering counter for lunch menu items. In the evenings, the Mill offers table service for customers.
Are there future plans for Neighbor’s Mill?
“We are exploring the possibility of franchising, but haven’t really decided yet if that’s what we want to do,” Mike said. “It’s an interesting thought worth looking at. We’ll see what happens.”
For now, at least, Harrison is the only place to find the rustic charm, outstanding baked goods, friendly staff and great food unique to Neighbor’s Mill Bakery and Café. Little more than an hour from Springfield, it’s a scenic drive and certainly worth the trip. Harrison is also about an hour and a half from Fayetteville, probably a little more than two hours from Little Rock.
Neighbor’s Mill is easy to find on Business 62-65 in Harrison. The street address is 1012 North Highway 62-65 Business, Harrison, AR 72601. You can give Mike and Karin a call at (870) 741-6455, or visit their website: http://www.neighborsmill.com .
Click here to view all the photos from our visit to Neighbor’s Mill.