Picture the world 197 years ago.
Things looked a lot different here in the city of London. One place that has remained the same is the Arva Flour Mill. The Mill has been operating since 1819—that’s Canada’s oldest continuously operating water powered flour mill.
But 11 months ago, it was almost shut down.
“It was for exposed pinch points; the inspector considered it a danger,” says owner Mike Matthews.
Matthews has been working at the mill for 30 years, but the last one has been the hardest.
During the last year, he lost out on contracts, couldn’t hire employees, and worked ridiculous hours, just to keep the mill running. All because of a safety ruling on equipment that had been running steadily for almost two centuries.
But after a federal tribunal overturned a federal safety ruling that called for the historic mill north of London to shut down, Matthews can finally get back to business.
However, the work is far from over.
“We were trying to fight to not have to guard the equipment,” says Matthews.
When we won we got the direction rescinded, and it’s not considered a danger, but due to the actual labour code we still have to guard the pinch points, so that’s a whole other issue.”
After the ruling almost a year ago, the community threw its support behind Mike Matthews. A petition to keep the mill open was signed by over 10,000 people. Also supporting was Peter Fragiskatos, the Member of Parliament for London North Centre.
“It’s important for this community because it’s a local heritage issue,” said Fragiskatos.
“It’s something that matters to so many people in London who either know of the mill because they’ve shopped there before, or because they are interested in local history.”
While Fragiskatos has supported the Arva Flour Mill since the start, he understands the need for the safety at the site.
“It’s now a matter of making sure we can find a guard that is able to fulfill the requirements of the labour code,” he explains.
“We have to make sure that safety is the focus, and we have to make sure that the employees at the mill are working in a safe premise. We do need a guard system in place.”
Regardless of the work still to be done, Matthews is grateful for all of the support he’s received over the last year.
“The public support has been absolutely amazing,” he explains.
“I kind of thought people had forgot about the old mill, and this came about and it turns out people haven’t. It’s been just amazing, and we really appreciate it.”
Matthews has wasted no time getting the mill back on its feet, and he continues to service customers in London and beyond.
“I’ve got my millers back to work now, and as for training new staff, I’ve still got to talk to the government about that and see exactly what they want me to implement for my training procedures.”
Matthews and Fragiskatos stressed how important it is to support small businesses, and that’s what kept Mike going through the difficult last several months.
As he explained, they’ve won the battle, but they’re still fighting a war.
But as he says with a smile, he’s just ready to get back to work– just like he’s been doing for the past 30 years.