Over 10 million pounds (the equivalent weight of roughly 60,000 American adults) of all-natural wheat flour and corn meal is sent to the 3.4 square mile town of Chelsea, Michigan every year to be processed by the Chelsea Milling Co. and sold under the Jiffy brand name (which I will refer to the company as, since it's such a part of popular vernacular). Grain elevators over 100 feet tall store the powders, which are later turned into one of the 22 different prepackaged mixes for muffins, cakes, and brownies that Jiffy offers. They’ve been doing that “for over 120 years.”
The towering presence of the grain elevators on the Chelsea skyline is symbolic of the residents’ aspirations. In 2004, the village of 4,398 people voted to become a city. Like the little engine that could, they formed their own police and fire departments to serve the community. Every year, police from across Michigan come to the city to test out the latest police vehicles on Chrysler’s proving grounds, to see which cars will best aid them in arresting law-breaking citizens.
That wouldn’t have been possible, not for Chelsea, Michigan, if weren’t for the runaway success of Jiffy’s mixes. To create them, Jiffy takes the aforementioned wheat flour and corn meal and combines them with ingredients like hydrogenated lard, refined sugar, baking soda, phosphates, berries, and chocolate. Just add milk, eggs, and high temperatures and you have a real treat.
Red machines that date back to the 1950s blend the ingredients and then pour them down one whole story into boxes that are assembled by other machines in the factory. Afterward, workers package the boxes into large cases by hand. Some of the workers develop arthritis from this process and have to pop aspirin (or, prescription Vicodin) every morning to deal with it.
Jiffy has had difficulties in the past. In the 1980s, dangerously high levels of insecticides were found in some of their products. During that same time period, brothers William and Howdy Holmes (a retired Indy 500 driver), whom own the company along with the rest of their family, got into “several fistfights” over the direction of the company.
But by the early 2000s, the company had stabilized under the leadership of Howdy. They dominate the market for corn muffin mix and their other prepackaged mixes perform strongly in their respective markets. The company is the 4th largest producer of baking mixes and the largest employer in Chelsea. The U.S. military is one of their biggest customers. Most of the mixes sell for under a $1 a box, and they can be found in grocery stores in all 50 states.
They built Chelsea, Michigan on corn meal, and it looks like they’re going to keep building 'til they can touch the sky.