Losing Miller's Market Is Like Losing A Friend

This article appeared in the Dayton Daily News on March 23, 2002

LOSING MILLER'S MARKET IS LIKE LOSING A FRIEND

Memories date back to childhood

By Roz Young

 

            We have often formed friendships with people who operated neighborhood stores in our area. There was Mr. Schultz, who ran a grocery story at the corner of Fairview and Main. Then Mr. Drummond opened a store at Hudson and Main, and we went to him for years. And Mr. Knecht presided over the candy display at his drugstore on Fairview and Main and doled out coconut bars and Jujubes and licorice whips when we stopped in on our way to school.

            Then came the Millers. We first got to know the Millers when they operated a home delivery service of butter, eggs, chickens, baked goods and vegetables more than 60 years ago. Mr. Miller used to open our kitchen door and lay a plump dressed hen on the table every Saturday noon.

            My father did not eat chicken. `We had chicken every Sunday when I was a boy, and I have had enough chicken to last me the rest of my life,' he said.

            But my mother liked chicken, and so when Mr. Miller started his home-delivery service, she had a standing order for chicken every Saturday. Since my father worked on Saturdays until afternoon, my mother hurried up and fried the chicken, and we ate it before he got home. By the time my father arrived home from work, all the vestiges of the chicken were gone.

            Finally the Millers rented a building near Far Hills Avenue and Dorothy Lane, where they sold their wares for 18 years; then they moved for another 18 years to a trailer at Whipp Road near Dorothy Lane. For the past 27 years they have been at a store in 6386 Far Hills, in the little shopping center across the road from Bethany. They are open only on Thursdays and Fridays, and if you don't get there early on Friday, you are likely not to be able to get what you want.

            Some folks called them `Amish' and others called them `Mennonites.' But they were really members of the German Baptist Brethren Church. The women who worked in the shop wore their prayer coverings and their caped dresses, and the men wore short beards and, if they went outdoors, their flat hats.

            For years the shop was run by a man I knew as Willie Miller, because when he was a boy, he was in the high school class of a cousin of mine at Dixie High School, and she always called him Willie. One time when I saw Willie and his wife, Dora, in a restaurant having lunch, I stopped to talk to them. Dora said, `Now since William is a minister, we call him William.' After that, I never called him Willie again.

            Oh, the fine foods I have had over the years from Miller's!

            I particularly liked their devil's food cake with the caramel icing. It was the kind my grandmother used to make, and I thought it was very special.

            They had homemade snickerdoodles, several kinds of homemade bread, angel's food cake and lovely trays of home-killed beef and pork. Sometimes they had apple dumplings. And there were always crumb cakes, cinnamon rolls, pimiento cheese and ham loaf.

            Oh dear, I could go on and on. They had nice, fresh eggs, both white and brown, and home-killed and -cured bacon.

            After William Miller died, Dora lived on alone for a long time in failing health. After she died, their two sons, Kenneth and David Miller, carried on the business. Their wives, Mae and Carolyn, worked in the shop. Mae made the best doughnuts - cake doughnuts, not those big fat bread doughnuts.

            A few weeks ago in my bag of baked good and meats, I found an announcement by the Millers: `Over the years we have appreciated the income from our business, as it has worked well with our farming operation and as an outlet for our farm products, vegetables, meats, home bakery and deli products.

            `Equally important to us has been the close relationships and friendships we have held with our many customers, some who have dealt with us for 50 years and longer.

            `The last few years have seen an increase in inspection, labeling and supply problems that have made it harder to operate our small business. Also, Kenneth and Mae have come to the point in life that they would like to retire from the business.

            `It is not an easy thing to tell you, our customer and friend, that April 4th and 5th will be our last week to operate Miller's Farm Market as you know it.

            `David is planning to maintain his freezer beef (sides and quarters) business, as well as pork (half or whole hogs). Pick up at New Lebanon or home delivery for a small charge. Phone: 947-854-2719.

            `Kenneth is planning to maintain his firewood and delivery sales. Phone: 937-854-2228.

            `Tamara will continue her juice products and nutritional education, which can be done in your home. Phone: 937-337-2055

            `Thank you for 65 years of loyalty and friendship. May God bless you!'

            It was signed Kenneth and Mae Miller and David and Caroline Miller.

            It makes me feel very sad. The last store I have known for more than half my life is closing its doors. When my freezer is empty of the last trays of crumb cakes and devil's food cake, there will be no more.

            I wish the Millers well. They should have gone on forever.