In 1958, Jim Miller and his father Leonard Miller founded Miller’s 5 & 10 in a former movie theater on Boonville, Indiana’s courthouse square. Jim ran the store for more than five decades before passing away in the summer of 2013.
But that’s not the end of the story. Jim’s grandson, J.D. Campbell, along with J.D.’s wife, Jenny, moved from Maryland to carry on the family business. Today, the store looks much as it would have shortly after it opened with an eclectic variety of items ranging from military flags to old-fashioned washboards.
“When Jim passed away, we had a lot of discussion about what should happen to the store,” says J.D. “The store is very important to a lot of people in the community, and he was important to a lot of people in the community. We never thought about the store not being around.”
It took nearly a full year after Jim’s death for Miller’s 5 & 10 to open full time again, but it’s been operating on normal hours since July 2014.
“We decided that we still want this to be a traditional dime store,” says J.D. “This is a historic downtown area and we want to keep that flavor in the store. While at the same time, we want to stock the right products that sell well today as well as keep those hard-to-find products that we are known for.”
Some of the more unique items include hardware pieces, handkerchiefs, Boy Scout and Girl Scout items, cap guns, sports apparel, watercolors, guitars, corn hole boards, cookie cutters, puzzles, and so much more.
“We hear all the time from people who came here when they were little, and they like to come back and visit,” says Jenny. “Even if they live out of town, they just want to come here and bring back those memories.”
The concept for a dime store or variety store came from the early 20th century, when Woolworth’s experimented with a type of store that sustained itself almost solely on low-priced items. Originally, nearly all items were either a nickel or a dime, though prices increased over the years.
The shelves at Miller’s 5 & 10 look nothing like a modern department store. Many items are in glass bins, especially personal hygiene products. Items produced locally are for sale. Many of the display cases at Miller’s 5 & 10 are either original to 1958 or at least close to it. Miller’s recently opened a booth in A Potpourri of Shops at 5 W. Jennings St., in Newburgh, Indiana.
“This fall, we had all the light fixtures upgraded to be more energy efficient,” says J.D.
The Campbells say despite the fact that the store has been in business for nearly 60 years, there still are many Tri-State residents who don’t know it exists. And some longtime customers simply assumed when Jim Miller died, the store would go with him.
For more information about Miller’s 5 & 10, visit its Facebook page at facebook.com/BoovilleMillers5and10.