Home Is Where Her Business Is

Oct 31, 2007

Home Is Where Her Business Is

Since childhood, Brenda Miller expected to take over her family's furniture business. So it's fitting that she sells her all-American, all-wood furniture in her original childhood home.

Brenda, a former assistant school principal, grew up in the furniture business. Her parents have sold furniture in a shop next to her childhood home since 1971. In 2002, Brenda and her husband, Kevin, bought her parent's antique reproduction furniture dealership and opened up The Miller House in the house that Brenda grew up in. Brenda's parents still sell painted reproduction furniture and folk art in the shop next door.

Displaying their pieces in a homey environment gives the Millers a competitive advantage against larger furniture stores, Brenda says. "This setup provides customers with a better idea of dimensions and allows them to see how a particular piece of furniture works in the space and with all the accessories."

The Miller House specializes in 100% American-made, solid wood furniture, which, according to Brenda, is an expensive proposition. A cherrywood dining table chair starts at $175. However, The Miller House offers a 15-year warranty on all its products, something that Brenda says she would not offer on imported fake wood products. "I can't say that a lot of the imported furniture is going to last a lifetime due to the materials used and some of the production techniques," adds Brenda.

The Millers keep their overhead low by relying on family and friends to help in the store. Kevin has 10 brothers and sisters who often pitch in, particularly for special store events such as the Harvest Fair in the Valley, which features local artisans' wares and a bluegrass band and attracts more than 500 visitors. "When I was an assistant principal, I learned that one way of retaining employees is to appreciate them and to show it. I show all my volunteers that I appreciate them. And you have to be seen doing what they're doing, not sitting behind a desk," Brenda says.

The Millers relish a hands-on approach. They pick up and deliver about 90% of the furniture themselves, once a week driving 45 minutes each way to a furniture factory. This saves the 10% delivery charge.

The Millers have expanded into accessories such as art, rugs, and lamps and recently began offering interior design services to further distinguish The Miller House from larger furniture stores. Last year, Brenda designed the interior of a five-bedroom house for the local Parade of Homes, a showcase of homes by area home builders, and won the Best Interiors Award.

To share a Success InSight, e-mail Greg Galdabini at ggaldabi@uschamber.com or phone 202-463-5563.

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