After 30 years in the hardware and fix-it business you'd think that Kenny Miller could repair anything. The truth is he probably can, with the exception of that darned moose with one antler.
That's right. The Miller moose, minus half his headgear, looks down from the back wall of Arrowhead Ace Hardware of Minot. It has been a center of conversation for hardware customers for many years.
"I got him in 1994," said Miller. "When I saw him head into some hills on Friday he had two antlers. When he came out the next morning had one and I took him anyway. Everybody talks about it all the time, that's for sure."
Kim Fundingsland/MDN •
Kenny Miller and his one-antlered moose are familiar sights at Arrowhead Ace Hardware of Minot. Miller has been an Ace Hardware employee for 30 years.
While Miller's moose is quite an attraction, it is Miller's reputation for helping people maneuver through home fix-up problems that helps keep customers returning to the store. Every week Miller helps people discover everything from proper plumbing joints to lawn care items to the right choice in paints.
"I enjoy being with people and working with the public," said Miller with a smile. "You have to learn what people need and what people want. I love to do it. Customers need good help to take care of them and they keep coming back."
Miller has worked under three different ownerships at Ace Hardware during his 30 years of roaming the hardware isles. He has witnessed a few expansion projects and the evolution of customers.
Prairie Profile is a weekly feature profiling interesting people in our region. We welcome suggestions from our readers. Call Regional Editor Eloise Ogden at 857-1944 or Managing Editor Kent Olson at 857-1939. Either can be reached at 1-800-735-3229. You also can send e-mail suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
"I've seen all the different aspects of life here," said Miller. "I've seen people come in here with little kids three or four years old and now the kids are 25 or 30 years old and asking for the same kind of help that their dad did years ago."
When asked about his first day on the job, Miller said he couldn't really remember much about it. He could recall his first employer though. It was Lando Vix.
"Bertha Vix was a little old grandma that sat up front in a chair. When you came in, she let you know this was a hardware store," laughed Miller. "I'm sure there's a lot of people that still remember her."
As helpful as Miller is in showing customers the right product to solve their home repair needs, he's equally adept at working on small engines. He has fixed thousands of lawnmowers and snowblowers throughout the years. Today he divides his time between helping customers on the sales floor and returning small engines to working order. The latter has been a natural progression from his days of growing up on the farm.
"Being a farm boy, you fixed everything you had. You didn't go to town all the time and buy stuff. You just fixed it," said Miller. "After dad got off the farm I had all those nice tools to use to fix anything I wanted to fix. I got interested in fixing motors and just stayed interested in it. I really like to tinker with the small engines. I've been doing that for about 35 years."
Several lawnmowers filled the small work area at the rear of Arrowhead Ace Hardware this past Friday. Miller pointed out what needed to be done with most of them. According to Miller, most were in need of necessary tune-ups involving oil changes, spark plugs and filters. Others likely had problems with water in the gasoline or in the carburetor.
"That would cover probably 90 percent of it," said Miller. "Most of the motors are Briggs and Stratton and the two-cycle Lawnboys. I like working on them."
In an age when replacement is often encouraged over repairs, customers have found they like having Miller bring their ailing lawn and garden equipment back to life.
"It keeps people happy," remarked Miller.
That attitude has helped make Miller popular with hardware customers who have learned to trust his advice and his handiwork.