Miller family lays down stakes in construction business

TRAVERSE CITY – April is going to be a busy month for the Miller family…they're opening two new businesses and the first grandchild is joining the family.

Home & Hearth, located in the building previously occupied by the Easy Living Superstore on South Airport Road across from Cherryland Center, will hold its grand opening the second weekend of April.

Kelly Miller of Miller & Miller, a local development and investment company, renovated the building in 2004 and also owns the new business. The previous store was "under-capitalized," according to Miller, and it closed unexpectedly last November for "reorganization."

"We decided to form a new business selling some of the same products," said Miller.

In addition to hot tubs, pools, fireplaces, billiards and poker tables, Home & Hearth will feature Lloyd Flanders patio furniture. A Better Sound, formerly located inside Lauren Hanna Interiors on Garfield, will soon be operating out of Home & Hearth, selling and installing flat screen TVs and custom high-end surround-sound products.

On the other side of town, Aroma's Coffee & Tea will open later this month in the Bayview Professional Centre at the corner of M-72 and the Parkway, a building the Millers also own. The specialty coffee shop, which will use beans from Great Northern Roasting Co., will cater to the business professional with wireless Internet and ample meeting space, and will also offer a full menu.

Adam Miller, Kelly's oldest son who headed the project, described it as "the Ritz-Carlton of coffee shops," incorporating features of high-end cafes he's seen. While designed to be a building amenity, it's also located on the "going to work" corner and will even offer curbside service.

The Miller family's background is in oil and gas drilling, dating back to a wooden oil rig owned by Adam's great-grandfather. The drilling business passed down through the generations and operated under Miller Exploration until the family sold the company in 2003.

Now Miller & Miller, based out of the River's Edge office complex on Cass St., is the parent company for numerous construction projects, as well as the family's continuing investments in gas and oil activities. Miller & Miller has six employees, including Kelly, Adam and his brother, Chad.

The opening of Aroma's caps nearly two years of renovations at the Bayview Professional Centre, which they purchased in 2005 and began renovating immediately. Describing the property as "tired," the Millers incorporated waterfalls and fountains and other exterior improvements that won them both landscaping and signage awards.

"It's a fantastic building," said Kelly, highlighting a layout that allows for both small and large tenants in the five-story structure. Leased space can be as small as 350 square feet and as large as 15,000 square feet of contiguous space. The building is currently 65 percent full. All tenants have access to an executive conference room, fitness room, mail room and break room.

"You can have a small space with a lot of amenities," said Kelly, adding there is a need in Traverse City for smaller "class A" suites.

It was on a trip to the Upper Peninsula to collect rocks for the building's water features that Adam told his father he wanted to join the company. He started as an apprentice and overseeing the renovation of the Bayview building has been his main charge.

"It is nice to have Adam here," said Kelly. And now, Chad, Adam's younger brother, has begun his apprenticeship and is heading the Home & Hearth store.

Just down the road from the Bayview Centre is the Westport building, the Miller's other large commercial building in the area, located on M-22 in Greilickville across from Apache Trout Grill. They purchased the building last April, but since it's just a couple years old only required some "adding to," including lighting, signage, and landscaping.

The building currently has two tenants occupying 30 percent of available space-Legacy Financial Service Group and Chemical Bank.

Reach Miller & Miller at 933-3233 BN