Miller's Department Store

Miller's Department Store
Miller's Department Store
Industry Retail
Fate Sold to Hess's; later converted to Proffitt's
Founded 1973
Defunct 1992
Headquarters Chattanooga & Knoxville, Tennessee
Products Clothing, footwear, bedding, furniture, jewelry, beauty products, and housewares.
Parent Proffitt's

Miller's Department Store was a chain of department stores based in eastern Tennessee.



The company was formed August 1, 1973, from the consolidation by retail conglomerate Garfinckel, Brooks Brothers, Miller & Rhoads, Inc. of two related Tennessee-based department stores; Miller Brothers of Chattanooga and Miller, Inc. of Knoxville, Tennessee.[1] The original Miller Brothers Department Store, based in Chattanooga, was founded in the 1800s and had remained a privately held company until it was purchased in 1973. Miller, Inc. was based in Knoxville.

At formation the combined chain had 11 stores and two specialty shops in eastern Tennessee, Georgia, Virginia, and North Carolina.

In 1981, with the acquisition of its parent conglomerate, Miller's became a part of Allied Stores.[2] In 1986, the chain was acquired in a hostile takeover by Hess's; then converted to Proffitt's in 1992.

Notable locations

Chattanooga flagship store

The Miller Brothers of Chattanooga flagship store, at 629 Market Street (corner of Seventh St.) in Chattanooga, was known for having Chattanooga's only "subway," which consisted of an underground shopping area that tunneled beneath Broad Street to their home store at the corner of Seventh and Broad (as well as a connecting parking garage). The store boasted two snackbars and a Tea Room as well as many amenities that are not to be found in any current retail establishment. On September 17, 1987, it was listed in the National Register of Historic Places.[3]

Knoxville flagship store

The original Miller, Inc. store in downtown Knoxville, erected in 1905, was a fixture of the shopping culture in the area, and a foundation of the downtown business district. The original location at 445 Gay Street is still known as the Miller's Building. The building was constructed in the Edwardian style, and designed by Knoxville-based architect, R. F. Graf.[4] A 1911 addition to the north was in the same style as the original building, but an expansion in 1935 was in the Art Deco style. In 1998, the building was restored, including the recreation of original details and return of the buildings to the earliest appearance of each of the three component sections.[5][6] The building is currently home to the Knoxville Utilities Board.

Miller's later moved to a building a few blocks west at 600 Henley Street, constructed about 1954, which had housed a Rich's store and eventually became a Hess's store. This mid-century modern building received a design award from the American Institute of Architects at the time it was built. It features structural glazed tile, polychrome glazed brick, undulating concrete canopies, and corner towers enclosed in glass.[7] Like the Gay Street store it also had an underground tunnel which connected the store to its multi-level parking structure across Henley Street. The Henley Street building is currently used by the University of Tennessee for a conference center. While the parking structure was modified for the 1982 World's Fair and eventually leveled for the construction of the new Knoxville Convention Center, the tunnel still exists and is used for storage and access to the conference center's garbage disposal area. Former Knoxville councilman Don Ferguson has recently[when?] petitioned the university to allow the public to use the tunnel again.

Like many department stores of the era, Miller's incorporated a restaurant, snack bar, and bakery counter. Miller's coconut cakes were very popular with patrons, and the recipe is still a highly sought-after item.[8]

Branch stores

In addition to the Chattanooga flagship store, Miller's Chattanooga area locations included Eastgate Center, Bradley Square in Cleveland (relocated from Village Mall), and Northgate Mall in Hixson, where Miller Bros. was one of the two anchors when the mall opened in 1972. The Northgate store is now a Belk.[9]

Miller Inc. established one of the first stores in Oak Ridge during the Manhattan Project. The original Miller's store in Oak Ridge was established in 1944 on Broadway.[10] The store later relocated to the Downtown Shopping Center, which was renovated into Oak Ridge Mall between 1989 and 1991. Other Knoxville area branch locations included East Towne Mall, West Town Mall, and the Foothills Mall in Maryville.

Tri-Cities locations included Fort Henry Mall in Kingsport, Mall at Johnson City in Johnson City, and Bristol Mall in Bristol, Virginia.

Miller's had one Georgia location in Rome, which began as a multi-level downtown store and then moved to Rome's Riverbend Mall in 1975. The Walnut Square Mall location was not a Miller's, but Loveman's of Chattanooga.


  1. ^ "Garfinckel Combines Tennessee Divisions," The Washington Post, Times Herald, Aug 2, 1973, p. D12.
  2. ^ "Garfinckel Sale To N.Y. Firm Set At $228 Million," by Jerry Knight, The Washington Post, Sep 2, 1981, p. A1.
  3. ^, Miller Brothers Flagship NRHP reference (retrieved Sep 12, 2008).
  4. ^ Ann Bennett, National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form for Stratford, 23 March 2009.
  5. ^ Designated Properties: Knoxville Historic Zoning Commission
  6. ^ Knox County Properties on the National Register
  7. ^ University of Tennessee Conference Center (formerly Rich’s Department Store) – 600 Henley Street, in 2007 Most Endangered Historic Places “The Fragile Fifteen”, Knox Heritage website (accessed October 27, 2008)
  8. ^ Mary Constantine, Larsen's coconut cake, Knoxville News Sentinel staff blog, accessed March 17, 2010
  9. ^ Memories Of Northgate Mall by John Shearer, The Chattanoogan, March 17, 2007
  10. ^ Oak Ridge Firsts, Oak Ridge Public Library website, accessed October 17, 2008

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