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Posted on Mon, Apr 1, 2013 : 11:30 a.m.

Why Chelsea's Jiffy Mix is 'one of America's last great businesses'

By Lizzy Alfs


Howdy Holmes' grandmother introduced the prepared baking mix product in 1930.

Lisa Allmendinger |

It’s not too often that the CEO of a multi-million dollar company makes personal phone calls to complaining customers.

But after Howdy Holmes, CEO of Jiffy Mix maker Chelsea Milling Co., did just that recently, the complaining customer changed his tune pretty quickly.

“I simply had written a short note complaining that I preferred the flavor of real blueberries to the artificial ones in their muffin mix,” Cory Suter writes on PolicyMic, a political news site.

“After a 16-minute long chat with the Jiffy Mix CEO, and 11 years of studying business and economics, I knew I had discovered one of America’s last great businesses,” he continued.

Based just outside of downtown Chelsea, the family-owned Chelsea Milling Co. produces more than 1.5 million boxes of mix each day. Holmes’ grandmother introduced the first prepared baking mix product in 1930.

Suter names seven reasons why Jiffy is a great company, including how well it treats its employees and how it manages to keep costs low for consumers.

“The 30 percent to 52 percent off the final price that Jiffy saves not advertising or making flashy packaging is directly passed on to customers in the form of unusually low prices,” the article says.

Lizzy Alfs is a business reporter for Reach her at 734-623-2584 or email her at Follow her on Twitter at



Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 10:57 a.m.

I too wish they would offer mixes without lard. High cholesterol issues.


Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 4:32 p.m.

Do they still do their awesome tours of the plant??


Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 4:53 p.m.

Yes they do. They completely redid their visitor center a couple of years ago and stopped them for a few months while the visitor center was being remodeled. The results are fantastic - the place is state-of-the-art. No more slide show with someone talking through a bull horn! But you still get your sample cookie that they have made and your still get your hair net (or nets if you have a beard and/or mustache) and you still get your free box at the end. Plus kids still get the little blue Jiffy-guy (who now has a name but I forget what it is). They also have a souvenir shop as well. However, the tour is a little shorter than it was and I am not sure that there are as many. You may need to call ahead and get some times when they are hosting a school trip and get in on one that way. Remember, anywhere you go in the world and you see the blue Jiffy box, you know that it was made in Chelsea as that is the only Jiffy plant there is!


Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 4:30 p.m.

OK, you have sarcastically replied to my story about Mr. Holmes / Jiffy Mix / lard... I never said I asked him to change the recipe. I was simply pointing out to him that there are populations of people who *don't* buy Jiffy products because of a particular ingredient. Judging by Mr. Holmes' reaction (and we did have a lengthy conversation), I'd say that this was really something he'd never considered. I did not argue, beg, plead, threaten, etc. I am more than happy to make my own cornbread and muffins, and in fact would probably not buy the mix even if it WAS friendly to my dietary guidelines. It is only an issue when I'm at a potluck or other gathering and there is cornbread on the table... I will ask the host what the origins of the dish are, and if it's Jiffy, I avoid eating it. Not a big deal. I've never gone hungry for lack of one dish. I did say I was amused by the conversation, not irritated, miffed, offended, or put off in any way. It is, indeed, Mr. Holmes' business and he can do what he pleases. Please do not put attitude into my words, commenters! And side note: I work in the food industry and we constantly receive input from the public about our products. We welcome all of them, deciding which ones deserve action on a case by case basis.


Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 1:42 p.m.

The cornbread is one of the best "food" deals out there!! I wouldn't want them to ever change the recipe. Thank you Jiffy for not going the "new and improved" route!!

joan hellmann

Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 1:15 p.m.

Now I mostly bake from scratch, but when in college, we'd enjoy the muffins "made with real blueberry-likes". I don't think we realized then that Jiffy was a local company; now I appreciate their support of the Chelsea community.

gerald brennan

Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 10:55 a.m.

Sorry Jiffy, you lost me at the fake blueberries...

Michigan Man

Mon, Apr 1, 2013 : 10:55 p.m.

Howdy's father (Howard) fine, fine leader also and served for many years in important governance positions at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital. Entire family is first class!

Elaine F. Owsley

Mon, Apr 1, 2013 : 8:08 p.m.

I love Jiffy because when you have questions - you get answers. There is always someone knowledgeable answering the phone and they are really local, not off in Manila or somewhere with an accent you can barely understand. Good product, good public relations - they don't have to pay for advertising, their customers do it for them.


Mon, Apr 1, 2013 : 8:06 p.m.

The history of Jiffy Mix and Chelsea Milling Company is a fascinating story! When I went back to college a few years ago, I wrote a paper for my historical writing assignment in the basic college writing class on Mabel Holmes and her invention of the baking mix (and how she came up with the name, Jiffy). The next semester in Communications class, I did a presentation on the same subject.


Mon, Apr 1, 2013 : 7:26 p.m.

I had a slightly different (but amusing) experience w/ Mr. Holmes on the telephone a few years ago. I called for two reasons: to thank him for having the company sponsoring a local arts event (mission accomplished) and to ask if Jiffy would ever consider getting rid of the lard in their products in exchange for a vegetable fat so that vegetarians and folks who keep kosher could use their mixes. He said that their test kitchen decided long ago that lard is the only way to keep the flavor that their reputation is built on, and that they are happy with their market share of sales. And then he cracked me up by saying "so, basically, tough luck to you!". Well, ok then, Mr. Holmes, I'll make my own cornbread and muffins!

Audion Man

Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 12:36 p.m.

I called Cadillac headquarters, just the other day, and asked them to make a $5,000 car- because I cannot afford all of their other products. They said no! Can you believe it?


Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 12:12 p.m.

Wow! How will they ever survive? LOL!


Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 12:32 a.m.

That is why I don't buy JM products...the lard. Now I have a second reason...Mr. Holmes stupid attitude towards his customers.


Mon, Apr 1, 2013 : 8:08 p.m.

@gee How many other companies have you asked to change their recipe? How many did it?


Mon, Apr 1, 2013 : 7:21 p.m.

I always have a box of Jiffy in the pantry!


Mon, Apr 1, 2013 : 6:59 p.m.

I must add that Mr. Holmes is indeed a fine person and a gentleman. I have not ever heard a negative word about him and I am a 3rd generation Ann Arborite. Love the corn muffins!

Tom Teague

Mon, Apr 1, 2013 : 6:01 p.m.

As a transplanted southerner with strong opinions about southern cuisine, I was shocked to the core to see the Jiffy plant on a drive through Chelsea several years ago. I mean "pull-the-car-over-and-stare" shocked. Jiffy had always been one of my go-to ready mixes back home and, since I'm not a reader of fine print on the back of mix boxes, it never occurred to me that such good cornbread originated in Michigan.

Julia Herbst

Wed, Apr 3, 2013 : 12:32 a.m.

My Mammaw from Kentuckys famous Pineapple Upside Down Cake was always made with Jiffy Cake Mix, and still to this day I will go to three different stores to buy some when I want to re-create her masterpeice.

Tom Teague

Mon, Apr 1, 2013 : 10:20 p.m.

Well TDW - I sure had enough uncles and cousins who moved here to build planes and cars, so if any of your relatives were from Cocke, Greene, or Sevier counties, we might have been looking at the same boxes of Jiffy Mix in those cupboards.


Mon, Apr 1, 2013 : 9:44 p.m.

Tom...I've lived here my whole life and I didn't realize it until I was in my teens.I saw it all over the place at my grandmas's in the back hills of Tennessee though


Mon, Apr 1, 2013 : 4:31 p.m.

Important detail left out: All their production staff are temps from Manpower. doh!

Julia Herbst

Wed, Apr 3, 2013 : 12:31 a.m.

@Goofus, ALOT of businesses around here are hiring through Manpower, and Pheonix services. Calling ALL workers TEMPS is inaccurate. Employees are hired through Temp agencies, which gives the employee 90 days to show the business that they are the right person for the job. After 90 days the worker is either HIRED in as a full time employee, or is let go. This gives big companies a chance to weed out the bad seeds, and make sure they get the employees that really WANT the job.


Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 2:06 p.m.

Ok. Call and try to apply for a job there and see what they say. Inevitably, they will tell you that they hire through Manpower. There are, undoubtably, some house supervisory positions...such as FOREMAN, mentioned above, that are actual Jiffy employees...but the majority of entry level production are all through temp. agencies such as Manpower. Like I said, call them up and try to get a job at'll see.


Mon, Apr 1, 2013 : 7:10 p.m.

I do not believe "all" their production staff are temps from Manpower.


Mon, Apr 1, 2013 : 4:51 p.m. cousin has been working there for years and I haven't heard about that ( He may be a foreman or something now )


Mon, Apr 1, 2013 : 4:06 p.m.

Not only is Mr. Howdy Holmes the CEO of Chelsea Milling and a pillar of the community, but he was a reasonably good race car driver years ago. He put his heart into it, and it seems he still does that today with his company. Not many communities are blessed with an organization like Chelsea Milling.