Subscribe

WINDMILLS POWER THEIR DREAM: KEVIN AND ROBIN MOORE TURN LOVE FOR OLD-TIME PROPELLER TOWERS INTO SUCCESSFUL WORLDWIDE BUSINESS

Rock Ridge Windmills is tucked away on 40 acres above Cloverdale's River Road, a small home-based business that has taken owner Kevin Moore and his wife, Robin, around the United States and all the way to China.

Moore, 55, was a fire marshal when he became enamored with windmills about 15 years ago. The family moved to their rural property and one day he looked around, saying, "All this place needs now is a windmill."

He soon located one that had been sitting in a Willits barn since the 1940s. There was no instruction manual, and all the parts' tags were made of leather. Through trial and error, Moore and several friends eventually got the never-before-assembled windmill put together and installed. It still stands alongside his front porch.

Over the years his collection has grown to include about a dozen with historic value, the first at the bottom of his driveway and the others along the road leading to the Moores' house on the hill. A barn-like structure serves as his workshop.

Moore is a certified windmiller, learning to manufacture, sell, repair and install them by attending a comprehensive training workshop offered by New Mexico State University. He spent vacations traveling to Texas and Oklahoma, talking to windmill guys and working with them at the Shattuck Windmill Museum in northwest Oklahoma.

"Most of them were in their 80s and 90s, so they were really happy to have someone around who was eager to learn these skills from them," Moore said.

Word got around, and soon people were calling and asking for his help with their windmills. Visitors have come to his windmill ranch from Canada, Mexico and South America. One man from Nicaragua even traveled to Cloverdale to personally pick up replacement parts and detailed instructions on how to fix his windmill.

For a man who loves American history and anything mechanical, this was a dream come true.

While many windmills today are just decorative, in the late 1800s they were a sign of prosperity. "American homesteaders put up a windmill before they even had a good house to live in, since nothing could survive without water," Moore said. "Seeing a windmill meant the people who installed it were making a commitment to the land and letting everyone know they were ready to set down roots and make it their home."

Today he sells items that range from the basic 21-foot tower with 6-foot blades ($4,500) to the $25,000 model that is as big as a two-story house. Some are used to pump water, but most are decorative, used in lieu of signs to identify a business or piece of property.

Reproductions of 1930s windmills are the most common, with the average cost being around $4,500. While it generally takes about a day to install one, they are not impulse buys. Since windmills last 75 years, customers want to get it right the first time and often take two years to make up their minds.

They also make popular Christmas gifts, with people ordering them customized with the recipient's name. As Robin said, "Nothing says 'I love you' like giving a man a windmill."

For many, there's something about windmills that evokes thoughts of country living and days gone by. As one customer in Rincon Valley told the Moores, "Now that we have a windmill, we feel like we live

10 miles farther from town."

Unless a customer comes to Cloverdale, Moore delivers the windmill and/or needed parts himself, using a customized 1-ton flatbed with trailer. He describes his customers as everyone from "CEOs of major corporations to working farmers barely getting by."

While putting up a windmill for one recent client in Southern California, Moore thought his enthusiastic helper was a ranch hand or maybe the ranch supervisor. He turned out to be the CEO of a well-known beverage company.

"Part of the joy is meeting with people and helping them to decide where it should go, how tall it should be, what their best options are, and so on," Moore said.

Most clients want to assemble the windmills themselves, so he only sticks around long enough to share some tips and tricks to get them started. Not everyone likes the idea of climbing up the high towers, though, since they tend to sway and are often covered with grease and oil.

As a former Cloverdale firefighter, Moore has never had a problem with heights.

Moore's website, rockridgewindmills.com, has brought him to the attention of windmill enthusiasts all over the world, including an American businessman with a factory in China. At his request, the Moores have traveled to China twice since 2006 to tour the facility and teach his staff how to develop American-style windmills.

"Who would have ever thought a small windmill business owner from Cloverdale would be meeting with high government officials in China?" Moore mused. "They treated Robin and me like dignitaries. Everyone wanted to have a photo taken with us."

Moore donates one week of vacation each year to restoring and maintaining the 51 vintage windmills at the Shattuck Windmill Museum. Robin goes along but said, "My feet never leave the ground." She takes care of any painting or lettering that needs to be done, making sure the towers are horizontal on the ground before she begins.

Moore also donated a complete windmill and tower to the Solar Living Center in Hopland, where he trained the interns to install it. His YouTube videos are especially popular, with at least one of them having been viewed more than 28,000 times. Watch them at youtube.com/user/RockRidgeWindmills.

Moore has another claim to fame. His daughter Kathy was knocked over by a sleeper wave during her 2010 wedding on the Sonoma Coast, and the video went viral. (Watch the swept-away bride video at youtube.com.)

After years of being Fireman Kevin, Moore became better known as "Kathy's dad." Since that publicity died down, he has been known simply as the Windmill Guy, Moore said, and that's just fine with him.

To find out more, contact Moore at kevin@rockridgewindmills.com or 529-3539.

UPDATED: Please read and follow our commenting policy:

  • This is a family newspaper, please use a kind and respectful tone.
  • No profanity, hate speech or personal attacks. No off-topic remarks.
  • No disinformation about current events.
  • We will remove any comments — or commenters — that do not follow this commenting policy.
Send a letter to the editor

Our Network

The Press Democrat
Sonoma Index-Tribune
Petaluma Argus Courier
North Bay Business Journal
Sonoma Magazine
Bite Club Eats
La Prensa Sonoma
Sonoma County Gazette