Howard Miller Jr. and Wayne Miller received the 2022 Legacy Award from the Lake Township Chamber of Commerce in recognition of a lifetime of good business practices, outstanding character and unfaltering community leadership during their tenure at the helm of Hartville Hardware. The award was presented at the Chamber’s annual awards dinner on February 28.
In 1972, Howard Miller Sr. approached his son, Howard Miller Jr., age 19, about purchasing and managing Lake Value and Service. At the time, another “Hartville Hardware” was in town, so they decided to name the newly acquired 5,000-square-foot store True Value Hardware.
Shortly after the purchase, Howard Jr.’s brother Wayne Miller, age 17, started working at the store after school, and with his help, in August 1974, the groundbreaking took place for a new 22,000-square-foot retail site. The economy was hit by a recession that year, but the store was completed in December 1974. On Christmas Eve, community members with pickup trucks, horses and wagons, and flatbeds showed up to help with the move. As a result of the community’s generosity, all inventory and merchandise were moved to the new location in one day.
Nearly two decades later, the Miller family purchased their first lumber business. And in November 2010, ground was broken for the current home of Hartville Hardware, joining sister companies, Hartville Kitchen and Hartville Marketplace and Flea Market on adjoining properties. Sixteen months later, the brand new, 305,000-square-foot hardware store and design center opened its doors to the public.
If you ask who is responsible for the success of the business over the last 50 years, most everyone familiar with the company would probably say Howard and Wayne. However, if you ask Howard and Wayne, they would say their team members and the community. In fact, Howard’s favorite quote is, “All of us are smarter than one of us.”
Today, Howard continues to be on the leadership team and board of directors and runs the pricing and other systems on a part-time basis. Wayne officially went part time at the beginning of 2022. That means cutting back to 40 hours a week. He is also on the board of directors and leadership team and continues to do what he loves—merchandising.
Over the years, this business has operated with the foundations of faith, integrity and serving the community. Under the leadership of Howard and Wayne, Hartville Hardware became the first and largest corporate sponsor of the Lake Township Chamber in 2010, supporting the chamber as it endeavored to grow into the organization it is today. Their continued participation and support through sponsorships, in-kind donations, volunteer staff and board representation are invaluable to the chamber in every way. They have set a perfect example of servanthood and generosity, whether toward the chamber or other charitable organizations in the area.