Bob and Clara Miller sell hardware the old-fashioned way.
In an age of the home improvement mega-store, their business near 29th and Regal runs on friendly service and helpful advice for the do-it-yourselfer.
Miller’s Trustworthy Hardware Store is the nuts-and-bolts equivalent of the mom-and-pop grocery.
“We have our loyal customers,” said owner Bob Miller. “If they don’t see us they come looking for us.”
The Millers pack about as much hardware into their 5,500-squarefoot store as they possibly can and still have room to move in the aisles.
By comparison, the new Home Depot Store at Sprague and Fancher covers 130,000 square feet.
The Millers stock many of the same products found in larger stores, just fewer selections of each of them. They don’t carry the kinds of things that take a lot of space like lumber, roofing and nursery stock.
But if its electrical switches, plumbing or paint, the Millers probably have it.
They sharpen mower blades, repair pipes and fix screens. Keys are carved on the spot. A new $1,100 glass cutter ensures precise window repairs.
During the 1996 ice storm, the store sold out its supply of Sterno products.
“People bring in the whole kitchen sink because they don’t know how to take out the washer,” Clara Miller said.
She said customers are like family members.
“We enjoy what we are doing. We feel we are providing a service to the community,” she said.
Like any small business, the Millers put in long hours. They open the store at 7 a.m. and close at 6:30 p.m. Evenings at home are often spent doing paperwork.
They buy their hardware from a wholesale cooperative based in Indiana, which helps keep their prices competitive.
The couple purchased the business in 1984 from Bob’s brother, Bill Miller, who retired.
A hardware store has operated at that location since 1951. It’s been owned by the Miller family since 1977.
Bob Miller said he learned the hardware business as a salesman for 22 years for Jensen-Byrd Co.
He said his friends warned him about going to work with his wife when he bought the store, but the years have gone by with hardly a hitch.
“A lot of people told us, ‘You can’t live together and work together at the same time,”’ Bob Miller said, but they have.
The couple is happily married. They have three children, and they take vacations together. This year they are going to Disneyland.
The hardware store has six employees besides the Millers, so they can get away.
Five years ago, the store lost its 43-year-old manager, Rick Webster, who died of a sudden heart attack, leaving behind a wife and four children.
Just the thought of Webster’s death brings tears to Clara Miller’s eyes.
“It was very hard,” Bob Miller said.
Miller is 61 years old now, but doesn’t give a thought to retiring.
“We’re having too much fun,” he said.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo
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