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Country store a fixture in McDonough community

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

The small convenience store sits at the bottom of a hill in rural Henry County.

Miller's Store has been impacted by the troubled economy like other businesses in the growing suburban area. It survives, however, where other stores may not.

"For what we do, we don't have any competition," said Herman Miller, who owns the store north of McDonough.

Miller said news about lost jobs in a struggling economy still disturbs him, as much as it would any other small-business owner. The Georgia Department of Labor reported more sobering news Thursday.

The state's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose to 10.3 percent in December, to match the record high reported last July. For 24 of the last 25 months, Georgia's unemployment rate has exceeded the national unemployment rate, according to the Labor Department.

"I don't think it will last too long," said Miller. "The Lord provides for his own, and however low the economy gets, or how high ... he's going to take care of his."

Miller said he and his wife of 39 years, Dorothy, are the sole operators, and employees, of the convenience store. They have survived the economic crunch without having to make any staffing cuts.

"It's not very profitable," Herman Miller said. "We just barely make a living."

He said he took over the store's operation in 1978, from his father, David.

"My daddy [had] been running the store since 1932," he said.

He said the store has gained some local fame in its 78 years of operation. The store was a featured site in the 2006 Warner Bros. film, "We Are Marshall."

Herman Miller said the store has also received its share of out-of-state visitors over the years.

"I visit quite often," said Richard Burch, of North Augusta, S.C. Burch said he stops by the store when he comes to see his mother in McDonough.

"There's nothing like their bacon-egg-and-cheese biscuits," Burch said. "It's better than anything you get anywhere else."

The store, located at 3099 Ga. Highway 155, McDonough, is open weekdays only, from 7 a.m., until 2 p.m.

"People of the community like to have a place to come and see their neighbors," Herman Miller said. "You'd be surprised how many people come through."

Calvin Grier, of Conley, said he grew up nearby, and remembers Miller's father and grandfather. Grier visits the store these days to indulge his appetite for Old Fashioned Red Rind Hoop Cheese.

Joe Hoffman, of Stockbridge, said he visits the store about twice each day to talk with the Millers and their customers. "I just come by to aggravate them," Hoffman said.

"He is our son by affection," said Dorothy Miller.

The couple has seven biological children together, 20 grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.

Herman Miller said he describes many of his customers as his wife describes Hoffman, as members of his extended family. He said he keeps a list of their phone numbers so he can contact them and wish them well, when they are ill.

"The men who come here, if any of them have any needs, others in the group will help them with whatever they need," said Herman Miller. "We have Christmas parties, too. We send out get-well cards and sympathy cards. When people have a birthday, they buy everybody's coffee that day."

The evolution of the store over the years is evident in the variety of products it offers. Herman Miller said the store existed as filling station until he stopped selling gas in 1984.

"We used to have a full line of groceries here," he said. "We sell very few groceries anymore. We did real good until this building crunch."

He said the store mostly sells hardware products now, from tin tubs to concrete lawn gnomes. Most patronize the store during breakfast and lunch.

A member of Timber Ridge Presbyterian Church in McDonough, Herman Miller said he has no plans to go anywhere any time soon. "I guess I'll be here until my toes are turned up," he said.