Soldotna store co-manager given young retailer award

Posted: Thursday, May 20, 2004

Life may have its rewards, but after the gold stars handed out indiscriminately in kindergarten, there's a definite drop off in prizes. Every once in a while, however, a job well-done gets noticed and the responsible party gets awarded the grown-up equivalent of a gold star.

Last week, Scott Miller received such a star. The 32-year-old was named Young Retailer of the Year by the National Retail Hardware Association.

Miller co-manages Soldotna Trustworthy Hardware with his older brother, Brian, and was quick to share credit for the award with his brother, who was too old to be nominated. Miller also credits the store's employees and his father, Paul, who still works in the family business, but ceded daily management to his sons a few years ago.

"It certainly wasn't a one-man show here," Miller said. "I feel it's an award for our whole store."

Miller started learning the nuts and bolts of the hardware business at 14, when he began working at the family store. He continued to work during summers and holidays while in college, then came on full time after graduation.

Ten years later, under his and his brother's management, Soldotna Trustworthy Hardware carries the most product lines the store has ever offered and sales have more than doubled facts which contributed to Miller being chosen for the award from a field of candidates from across the United States.

"We get nominees from all over the country. We usually have about 100 young people nominated," said John Hammond, managing director of the National Retail Hardware Association.


Above, an excavator waits for its operator at Soldotna Trustworthy Hardware's new store site on the corner of Kobuk Street and Sterling Highway.

Photo by Mark Harrison

Nominees must be 35 or younger. In addition to professional accomplishments, a candidate's education, community involvement and goals for the future are taken into consideration. Six to eight nominees are selected for the award each year.

"We try not to make it a contest, that's not the spirit of it. We try to find several deserving people each year," Hammond said.

Miller is one of eight retailers this year to receive the award, which will be presented July 12 at the association's annual convention to be held in Blaine, Wash., at Semiahmoo Resort on Puget Sound.

In addition to an all-expense-paid trip to the banquet, Miller and the other honorees will receive a write-up in Do It Yourself Retailing, the hardware association's trade magazine.

"It's a pretty big deal," Hammond said.

Miller's in the middle of another pretty big deal at the moment: plans to move the family business's location.

Contractors recently broke ground on what will be Soldotna Trustworthy Hardware's new store site, on the corner of Kobuk Street and the Sterling Highway, across from Sal's Klondike Diner.

The new building will be 20,000 square feet, nearly three times the size of the building the store is in now. The Miller family leases the store's current location, but will own the new building.

"Having our own building to do what we want with is going to be a plus," said Miller. "It'll make us a more sound business."

The new store will be one level instead of two, but otherwise the plan is to keep much of the look and feel of the store the same. Like the old building, the new storefront will have a porch with an overhanging roof.

"It'll look from the outside an awful lot like what our store looks like now, just bigger," Miller said.

Inside, the new store will retain some of the traditional features of the old store, such as the hardwood floors and the check-out counter as opposed to a row of registers.

"We don't want to get into a big-mart look at all," Miller said. "We're trying to keep it a local hardware store."

The smell of a freshly oiled wood floor and traditional look of a check-out counter will help keep the store's small-town feel, Miller said.

The new location is planned to open in April.

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