August 5 – Happy Birthday Marvin Miller

marvinMILLERThe controversy continues regarding whether the Marvin Miller who served as the brilliant head of the Major League Baseball Players Association deserves to be in Baseball’s Hall of Fame. There would be no doubt however, that the Marvin Miller who owned and managed Miller’s Mens’ and Boy’s Store belonged in the Downtown Amsterdam, NY Merchants’ Hall of Fame, if in fact there actually was a Downtown Amsterdam, NY Merchants’ Hall of Fame.

Today’s birthday celebrant was born on August 5, 1916. The Miller Manufacturing Co. was started just a year before that by his father, Harry Miller. The company made all sorts of uniforms; occupational, scouting, fraternal organizations, etc. In 1934, Marvin Miller’s dad moved his company to Amsterdam, locating it in the upper floors of 68 East Main Street and opened a retail store on the building’s ground floor. It was one of the first discount stores in the entire area.

Marvin was involved in the business’s operation for just about his entire life, and made it his full time career after serving in WWII as a Lieutenant in the Army’s Quartermaster Corps. He formally became head of the company in 1962, when Harry Miller passed away. While a team of seamstresses was busy making all kinds of uniforms upstairs, the first floor store sold men’s and boys’ dress slacks, shorts and shoes, casual wear, sportswear, work clothes and work shoes, underwear and a large stock of cigars, cigarettes and tobaccos. The uniforms Miller’s manufactured were sold by mail throughout the country. I can also remember going in there to buy my Cub Scout uniform when I was a kid and the gym suits we had to wear as students at Junior and Senior High.

It really was a neat business model, perfectly suited for Amsterdam with its large pool of talented seamstreses who got their starts in the knitting mills that used to operate in the city. Marvin Miller ran it skillfully. For year’s, his biggest competitor for the Rug City’s male apparel market was the more stylish and expensive Mortan’s. Miller wisely focused his inventory and promotional strategy on the middle class segment of the market which ate up his high quality at low prices theme.

His veteran retail crew was a huge reason why the store became one of Amsterdam’s most popular. It was headed by the indomitable Howard Busseno who used to wait on about five customers at once without making any of them wait. The guy was amazing. He’d run the gauntlet with a pile of clothes in his hands and slung over his shoulders, throwing correctly sized pants at each customer and yelling at you to try them on as he speeded by.

Marvin Miller made a couple of moves to different downtown sites during the four decades the business operated in the City proper. But when the downtown Mall came, Miller headed north to Route 30, where he constructed his own sharply designed strip mall called Miller’s Plaza, just about opposite the entrance to McKay Rd. Following tradition, he included a second floor that housed his uniform manufacturing operation. Mr. Miller passed away in 1993 at the age of 77. The retail store is closed but can anyone tell me if Miller Manufacturing Company is still in operation?

He shares his August 5th Birthday with this pioneer of science education in Amsterdam’s public schools!

 

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