The $14.2 Million Ranch That Pancake Mix Built
John Heily, the chairman of Continental Mills, built his dream house. Now he’s selling it

John Heily, the chairman and chief executive of Continental Mills Inc., which owns such brands as Krusteaz and Buck Wild, is not, by his own account, a sportsman. “There isn’t a bone in my body that’s a cowboy or even an outdoorsman,” he says.

Still, during a family trip to the Montana fly-fishing lodge Ruby Springs, Heily, in the midst of what he describes as “a pretty generous cocktail hour,” decided he needed to have a ranch of his own, despite being based in Seattle. Even after the effects of cocktail hour had subsided, he stuck with his plan. He and his wife Deeanna chartered a helicopter in Missoula to look at various properties that were for sale, and “we tooled around, but we didn’t see anything we enjoyed.”

“One of the things about Montana is that a lot of people build a lot of palatial houses,” Heily explains. Those people “do it for the right reasons—security, privacy, etc.—but they find they don’t have any support. There’s no plumbing or internet or electrical, and it becomes a burden.”

Heily was understandably eager to avoid the same trap, so when a 225-acre plot of land that abutted Ruby Springs’s property came up for sale, “I was given a very short period of time to say yes or no, and I said ‘Absolutely,’ not having a clue about what I was getting myself into.” He paid roughly $11,000 an acre, he says.

That was eight years ago. Today, Heily is the proud owner of a nearly 10,000-square-foot house on what’s now become a 400-acre property named Ruby River One and Done Ranch. The name, he says, came via a friend: “We used to end up in a saloon, and I’d say I had to go home, and he’d say: ‘Johnny? One and done. After all, you’re going to be dead a long time!’”

The name, in other words, “is about making memories,” Heily says. “As you get older, memories get to be an awful lot more important.”

It’s for that very reason, though, that Heily put the ranch on the market with Keith Lenard of Hall and Hall for $14.2 million. When one of his adult children moved away, “It made us think: Maybe there’s something closer to home that would better fit our current needs.”

Figuring Out What to Do

After Heily bought the land, he set to figuring out a plan. He hired Seattle-based architect George Suyama, along with interior designer Christian Grevståd, and gave them a single brief. “My major contribution was: I don’t want to out-Montana Montana,” Heily says. By that, he says he didn’t want to create a faux-rustic lodge with moose antlers and wool blankets; he wanted something that looked and felt contemporary.

With both designer and architect in the driver’s seat, Heily said the building process was “so doggone much fun.” He shares a private plane with two other partners, and he, his wife, the architect, and the designer would use it to fly the 105 minutes from Seattle to Twin Bridges to work on the property, a 15-minute drive from town.

Construction took about two and a half years, after which Heily was able to begin hosting guests. Much of the outdoors was left wild, Heily says, but “we’ve got an 18-hole putting green; we’ve got skeet shooting; five tee areas so you can go hit golf balls; or you could go down the river and, in an hour, catch at least six or seven fish.”

The stretch of Ruby River on which the house sits has large brown trout and rainbows; there’s also a 1.25 mile stretch of Clear Creek, accessed via the property and off-limits to the public. Additionally, two man-made ponds next to the house are stocked with fish.

The House

The house itself has 7,000 square feet of indoor space and an additional 3,000 square feet of deck and porch space. There are three bedrooms and three bathrooms (including a large master suite), though most of the house is given over to entertaining spaces.

An open-plan kitchen and breakfast room stands next to a sunken bar at which the bartender works at eye-level with seated guests. “If I’m pouring someone a cocktail or a glass of wine, I want to be able to look them in the eye,” Heily explains. “You can have an easier dialogue than if you’re towering over them.”

Everything in the house, he says, was designed with comfort in mind. “You can see it’s all well-balanced,” he says. “The whole idea is that you’re in Montana. Things have utility, they’re not fragile. This is not a fragile house.” It is, however, a glassy one.

Much of the building’s exterior walls are composed of floor-to-ceiling windows. Guests in the living room enjoy an expansive view of the Ruby Mountains “reflecting in the sun,” Heily says. “It’s just magic.”

Happy To Sell

Heily says that he and his wife are happy to sell. “Having someone else have an opportunity to be in that home would be a great reward for all the time and energy that went into it,” he says. “When you’re asking the kind of price we are, we are obviously dealing with a select group of folks, but if it weren’t to sell, it wouldn’t be a burden. Nor would it be something we’re disappointed in.”

In fact, Healy says, “it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world—there are great memories there.”