Miller’s hardware store, a South Hill icon for six decades, has been closed for the past three months – and perhaps for good.
Since March, do-it-yourselfers have been greeted by a locked door with a large “closed” sign slapped onto the glass.
Inside are more mixed messages. The shelves are crammed full, but the front counter is gathering dust and the cash register till is pulled out and empty.
Phone calls to the store – officially known as Miller’s Do It Best – go unanswered.
Likewise, the store’s registered owner, Mathew McCoury of McCoury Investments in Spokane, did not respond recently to several calls seeking comment.
Records at the Washington Secretary of State’s office show that McCoury Investments Inc., with an address matching that of the store at 2908 E. 29th Ave., was administratively dissolved June 3.
The store closed in March, during the opening days of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, hardware stores had been deemed an essential business by the state, so the temporary closure may have nothing to do with the coronavirus.
Reached last week, a spokesperson at the store’s wholesaler, Do It Best Corp. of Fort Wayne, Indiana, directed questions to McCoury.
A hardware store has operated at the location continuously since 1951. It was purchased in 1977 by Bill Miller, who sold it seven years later to his brother, Bob, and his wife, Clara.
For the next 26 years, the Millers operated a classic mom-and-pop business in Lincoln Heights, packing as much hardware into their 5,500-square-foot store as they possibly could and still have room to move through the aisles.
By comparison, the Home Depot Store at Sprague Avenue and Fancher Road covers 130,000 square feet.
The Millers stocked many of the same products found in larger stores, just fewer selections of each of them.
They didn’t carry things that take a lot of space like lumber, roofing and nursery stock. But if it was electrical switches, plumbing or paint, the Millers probably had it.
They also sharpened mower blades, repaired pipes and fixed screens. Keys were carved on the spot.
Like any small business, the Millers and half a dozen employees put in long hours: 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Most goods were purchased from the Do It Best cooperative in Indiana, which kept prices competitive.
“We enjoy what we are doing,” Clara Miller told The Spokesman-Review in 1998. “We feel we are providing a service to the community.”
Bob Miller was 61 at the time, with no thought of retiring.
“We’re having too much fun,” he said.
Twelve years later, he did.
According to state records, their company, Miller’s Hardware Inc. became inactive in 2010.
The store was purchased a year earlier by McCoury.
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