When Marti Noxon was 13, it became “kind of a mission” for her to sneak into every studio lot in Los Angeles. The only one she didn't manage to break into, she recalls, was Warner Bros.
But Noxon, now 49, hasn't had to jump fences to get into a studio for a long time. Over the course of the last two decades, the list of groundbreaking television shows she's either written for or produced (often both) is nearly as long as the list of studios she ran through as a teenager: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Mad Men, Glee, Grey's Anatomy and Private Practice, just to name the ones you probably still watch the most. Then there are the two shows she had picked up in the last few months: Girlfriends' Guide to Divorce, Bravo's first scripted series, and Un-Real from Lifetime, both of which Noxon is writing and producing.
Maybe because she doesn't have to sneak into studios anymore (“They wave me in now!”), Noxon has been jumping other fences. In December, she and business partner Nan Kohler opened the doors to their “urban flour mill” in Pasadena, Grist & Toll.]
Just how a veteran screenwriter decided to become a flour miller might make a pretty good sitcom itself, but for now Noxon is content to operate her two careers on parallel trajectories, although she concedes, “Maybe we'll put it in one of the shows.”
Noxon grew up in a family of filmmakers and writers. Her father makes documentaries. Her brother Chris is a journalist and novelist. Her sister-in-law is screenwriter Jenji Kohan (Weeds, Orange Is the New Black), whose brother David wrote for both The Wonder Years and Will & Grace. “We're a clannish bunch; the nerdy, arty kids still cling together.”
After having two children of her own, Noxon started baking: “It was such a nice contrast to my job, because the results of my job are so hard to quantify. Baking is the opposite of that. If you mess it up, you know your cake won't rise.”
At first she had her Year of Pie, then the Year of Cake. “Then it was the Year of Bread, which has continued. It's now been, like, four years of bread.”
Early on in the bread years, Noxon had one of those chance meetings that changes a life. On vacation in Paris, Noxon was waiting in line to get into a popular restaurant when she struck up a conversation with a stranger, who turned out to be Kohler, then a pastry chef at Sweet Butter in Studio City. They ran into each other the next night at a bistro, and then again at a museum. After three random meetings, Noxon recalls telling herself, “I think we're supposed to know each other.”
Back in L.A., the two women began talking about opening a business together that would combine Kohler's pastry shop background with Noxon's ongoing fascination with baking. There were already too many bakeries, they thought.
“Then one night she started telling me about this small-batch flour mill she'd visited in England,” Noxon says. The germ of a new story took hold. Soon they were sourcing local grains and having a massive Osttiroler flour mill shipped from Austria.
“The mill used to be a community center,” Noxon explains. Now they take flour to farmers markets, sponsor DIY bread bakes and sell their flour to local restaurants such as République, where you can buy loaves of whole-grain bread made with Grist & Toll flour. A community indeed.