The city of Verona has seen significant growth over the last few decades, but one thing that has been a constant reminder of its “Hometown USA” charm is the downtown grocery store.
Miller and Sons Supermarket has been the hub of the community for over a century, back when the population was less than 500. Now, more than 13,000 people call Verona home.
Miller's is a place where you can catch up with friends and neighbors, enjoy an old-fashioned sweet treat, support a local cause at a brat fry, and even get help taking your groceries to your vehicle.
The majority of Miller’s customers are regulars, like John and Carol McKinley, who have shopped here ever since they moved to Verona in 1974. Even if they just need to grab a couple of items, their visits can take awhile, but not because they can’t find what they need.
“Every time we come, figure an hour, hour and a half, because you’ll be visiting with people,” John said. “We’ve just taken a liking to the store, it’s a family store. I believe in supporting the local population. The produce is fresh, the service is good, they fix the meat the way you want it, what more could you ask for?”
Down a few aisles picking out canned goods were Elizabeth Burlingham and her mother Pat Jordan, who have shopped here for over 50 years. “It’s close and affordable, and you’ve got everything you need,” Burlingham said, adding that her father loves when he comes in and everyone on staff knows his name. “It’s comforting. They’re the friendliest people I’ve ever met.”
Another local shopper, Chrissy, said she has been coming back for six years because she appreciates the “small, local feel” and that “everyone here is extremely helpful and kind.” She had once asked someone on staff if they had a certain product, and even though they didn’t at the time, she was impressed that they offered for the store to carry it in the future.
“Once you come to Miller’s and see it and interact with some of our employees and see how much we’ll go above and beyond for somebody, I think that draws them back to keep coming back,” said Amber Roach, a 10-year Miller’s employee. “It’s just an amazing place.”
Fourth-generation business owner, Carl Miller, continues his family’s tradition of putting people first and helping the community.
“He’s generous and kind, and he’s been here forever,” Roach said. “You can tell how much he cares about his employees and his customers. It’s his life.”
And while Miller doesn’t do it for the recognition, the Wisconsin Grocers Association has taken notice and awarded him for Excellence in Operations and Community Service in back-to-back years. “He has used his business for many years to help schools, chamber events, and local organizations,” according to the WGA press release, including regularly buying FFA livestock at the Dane County Fair and collecting donations for the food pantry. “Carl’s selfless and generous ways can also be seen in his store, where he often hires people with challenges to afford them possibly the only opportunity for a job, as well as seniors who stock shelves and countless students to check and bag groceries.”
Many of the Verona athletic teams alternate weekends during the summer to raise money by selling brats and hot dogs in Miller’s parking lot at the corner of Main Street and Church Avenue, and among them is the Verona Area Special Olympics team. Agency manager John Haberle said the funds raised from the brat fry go toward fees for tournaments, uniforms, lodging, and food on trips. “Carl employs some of our Special Olympics athletes, usually between 5-6 people on a regular basis. He’s very supportive of us,” Haberle said.
In December, Miller and Sons Supermarket also held a holiday open house and silent auction using donated products from local vendors to raise money for purchasing Caroline’s Carts. “It’s a cart for adults and children with special needs,” Roach said. “It’s hard to push a shopping cart and wheelchair, so this way they can get placed in that cart and shopping is made easier.” The event raised over $4,000, which is enough for both the Verona store and the Mount Horeb location (which opened in 2013) to each have one of these carts.
“As long as I can remember, (helping the community) is what we did, and it’s the way I was raised,” Miller said in a 2014 Verona Press article. “It’s part of being in a small community, you have to give back.”
Learn more about the mutual support between Miller's and the community in this video.