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Last Remaining Miller Milkhouse

This Miller Milkhouse, a drive-through mini-mart on East Main Street, is the last remaining store open in Richmond (February 2008). There were originally four that served the Richmond, Indiana community.

Photo taken February 9, 2008

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Article Reprinted with Permission from the Palladium-Item
Original article appeared on February 4, 2008

Miller Milkhouse president: 'We'll keep chugging along

Store down to just 1 location in Richmond

BY MICHELLE MANCHIR, STAFF WRITER for the Palladium-Item

It's down to one.

The closing Jan. 25 of Miller Milkhouse on South Ninth Street follows a series of closings within the locally owned Miller Corp.

The drive-up convenience store is the third of four Milkhouse locations in Richmond to close its doors for good.

Remaining is its 1700 E. Main St. site, said President John Miller, 77. He said it will remain open as long as it can sustain itself. There also are two stores in Muncie.

In April 2007, Milkhouses on North 10th and West Main streets shut down. Loss of profits has been the reason for all three closings, Miller said.

"It's simple," he said, "it's two-tier pricing."

Milk, bread and soft drinks were among the local chain's best sellers until about two decades ago, when retailers started charging independent companies, such as Miller's, more for their products, Miller said.

"Meijer, Wal-Mart and Kroger ... they can sell Pepsi Cola and Coca-Cola for less money than we pay Pepsi. ... We used to be Coke's largest customer in Richmond."

Now, cigarettes are the stores' biggest seller, accounting for what Miller guesses is 60 percent of their profits. That business leaves him unsettled.

"That changes the complexion of the store," he said.

Miller Corp. once operated a 50,000-square-foot dairy plant in Cambridge City, cafeterias in Richmond and Connersville and Interstate Ice Co. after Miller's father, L.F. Lote Miller, founded the company with his cousin in 1926.

All have been closed and sold to other owners in the last decade.

Miller, who now resides in Colorado with wife Kay, said the company "prospered heavily" from the mid '50s until about 1980, partially due to the decreasing number of milk bottling companies in Indiana and the increase of big-box retailers.

In 1981, 238 workers staffed the company. Now a single full-time worker in Cambridge City oversees its garage while seven, some transferred from the south-side location, run Richmond's remaining Milkhouse.

But Miller still visits Indiana, helping maintain what's left of the company.

While the corporation has obviously "downsized," Miller said, he doesn't call its future dreary.

"We've some rental income and good employees," he said. "We'll keep chugging along."

He said the east-side Milkhouse will remain open as long as it sustains itself.

"We're really and truly hoping enough business wants the convenience and will transfer to the Main Street store," he said. "If we can't keep it on... we've tried long enough and we'll have to close it up."

That's bad news to Richmond resident Brandi Shade, who's still getting over the Milkhouse's north-side closing near her residence.

"If you have kids you can get right in and out," she said last week as she left the east-side store, where she regularly buys milk, soft drinks and cigarettes.

"I love it here. I wouldn't change it for anything."

Mike Brewer of Richmond, who also was shopping last week at the east-side store, said he has no problem visiting the "gas station down the street" for his quick non-food item purchases.

But Evalene Welch, who lives less than a block from the boarded-up Milkhouse on South Ninth Street, said she'll miss the store she regularly used to walk to for eggs and milk.

"When I run short of bread and it was bad weather, I go up there and get bread," she said Thursday.

"... It's handy, you know."

Reporter Michelle Manchir: (765) 973-4483 or mmanchir@pal-item.com

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