Thursday, June 15, 2006
A significant date in Holly Springs history
Last Friday marked a significant date on the calendar of Holly Springs’ history, for it was the day Graham Miller turned the key for the last time in his store at the corner of Memphis Street and Van Dorn. As he wanted it, there was little ceremony. He sold his inventory down to the last pair of shoes, and now he has retired.
The Millers — three generations of them — have been in business around our square since the 1920s and originally and always at the above-mentioned corner, in the building that was once the Holly Springs Presbyterian Church.
Few who are living and nobody in business has been on the square longer than Graham Miller. His knowledge of people and the comings and goings on the square are legendary. Graham has seen lots of changes, and most of them have made life more convenient and comfortable.
Mark Miller says that his father and uncle James Houston, with their grandfather Ernest G. Miller, sold just about everything that could be sold as markets evolved through the years. They had appliances and radios — there was a car dealership out behind the store where a parking lot remains. Graham and James Houston divided their father’s business and Graham concentrated on the clothing and shoe lines. They even had the first soft-custard ice cream machine in Holly Springs. What do you suppose the price of a cone was? A nickel?
Of course, as fashions changed, so did the clothing lines Graham sold. He kept a lot of unsold merchandise in the attic and basement and outfits for several “good old days” parties that the town’s young people had came out of that attic. So did most of the wardrobe for the movie Cookie’s Fortune that was filmed here several years ago.
Linwoods’ at the corner of Van Dorn and Market, operated by Graham’s wife Sandy and his son Joey is an outgrowth of the original store. The old I.C. Levy department store was in the same building, so Linwood’s carries on an old tradition of fine clothing at that location. Mark Miller, who is in business where the old Masonic Hall used to stand (and after that the Golden Rule store), is an outgrowth of the original Miller Store.
In the last years, the Bottom Dollar, which was the bargain basement for the combined enterprise moved into the original Miller’s store. Careful shoppers found many good bargains there. I know several “church ladies” who were not too proud to wait for a sale who found nice outfits for Sunday at the Bottom Dollar.
Of course Graham’s proximity to the barber shop was a great boon to his business until the shop moved off the square a few years ago. The barber shop had the drink box, Graham had the phone, and Dr. Hale’s dental office maintained the coffee pot. Harmon Walker, Bennie Howell, Dr. Hale and his staff, and Graham all looked out for one another. It was not uncommon to make stops at all three locations in the course of a day.
We will miss Miller’s Store — Holly Springs’ oldest retail establishment and one of the oldest in the South. But I will not miss Graham’s faithfulness at church on Sunday mornings. Others may flit and fly, but Graham is always in his pew. If he is not, I know he needs checking on. People of consistency and commitment are the bedrock of any minister’s congregation, and they surely make up the “preacher’s corner” when the going gets tough.
Graham Miller exemplifies for me the sort of businessman who can be counted on for quiet honesty and solid dependability. How many have blown through this town full of plans and ideas and are gone in six months or less? Graham doesn’t say much but if he makes a promise he keeps it. It is that old-fashioned ideal called “character,” and Graham not only is a “character,” he has a character. He has taught me more as a minister than just about anyone I can name.
I have been grateful for Graham Miller since the first day I met him. He has always been there for me and I wish him every satisfaction as he begins a new chapter of his life.
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