The doors are still locked at Miller’s Hardware on the South Hill.
But not for long.
The signs are everywhere: fresh paint on the outside and even brighter ideas inside from new owner Stace Heston, who will enthusiastically fling open those doors at 8 o’clock Wednesday morning.
“We’re nervous and thrilled at the same time,” said Heston, whose outlook was as incandescent as the nearby light bulbs when he stood with his wife Arlene and a rambunctious labradoodle named Cooper.
“We’re just excited to bring it back and serve our customer base,” Heston said.
That base may have shrunk a bit since March. A do-it-yourselfer’s haven for six decades, Miller’s has been shuttered since early spring.
The closure had less to do with the COVID-19 pandemic than the health issues of previous owner Matt McCoury.
“It was a tough situation,” Heston said. “It wasn’t operating how it should.”
Living only a mile away, Heston said he often drove by the building on 29th Avenue and felt pulled by the opportunity.
Seizing the moment, the Hestons purchased the property from McCoury.
“Walking in as a customer I saw 50 things wrong with the place,” Heston said. “Now I see thousands.”
But instead of spending months on renovations, Heston decided to open the doors quickly, restock the shelves and build for the future. The store will remain part of the Do It Best cooperative.
It’s a future full of possibilities.
Heston picks up his pace as he walks to the back of the store and its second entrance. Standing in the parking lot he stretches out his arms to embrace the vision of a garden center that will sprout next spring.
Back inside, he points to the paint cans. “They used to be out front, and we’re going to put them back up there,” he said as he plucked a few dusty plastic flowers from a display.
Heston offered more details on the changes in a sort of nuts-and-bolts discussion about nut and bolts.
“But we’re not going to just tear this place apart,” Heston said of the tiny 5,500-square-foot building that dates back to the 1920s.
“We’re going to be really sensitive,” said Heston, who took a few minutes to point out an ancient set of stairs that once led to a speakeasy in the basement.
We want to do it very methodically, but this store needs to be renovated,” Heston said.
Heston is more than qualified to pull it off.
He said his grandfather opened the first hardware store in Redding, California, and his father opened the first in nearby Shasta Lake.
After working in the family business for several years, Heston moved to Puyallup, Washington, in 2001 to work as a regional manager for Ace Hardware.
“My first day was 9/11,” said Heston, who in the next 17 years went on to help open 150 stores from California to the Canadian border.
Vacations were often spent in the Spokane area.
“We fell in love with the place,” said Heston, who promised himself if the opportunity came to own his own store, it would be in Spokane.
He approached a friend, the owner of the store on South Monroe. “Would you sell it?” Heston asked.
“To you, yes,” the owner said.
Heston bought that store in 2018. Now Heston will have twice the fun, and he’ll spend time in both stores.
At the same time the Hestons hope to reincarnate the mom-and-pop feel the store enjoyed under its namesake, longtime owners Bob and Clara Miller.
“We want to continue that,” Arlene Heston said. “We’re going to give the service and quality our neighbors expect.”
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