Family Owned, Then & Now
Nearly a half-century ago, Mr. Wallace J. Olsen, Sr. invested his life savings of $5,000 in the opportunity to own his own furniture business. Until then, he had spent his career selling office machines for Remington Rand, culminating in heading up sales and operations for Miller’s of Charlotte in 1967. By his own admission, he had to learn about furniture. Yet he understood the fundamentals of sales – you are only as good as the products you provide and you have to service the customer. Upon these core values, Mr. Olsen bought Miller’s of Columbia in 1969.
The first years were tough, and Mr. Olsen relied on the machines division to see Miller’s through. In 1973, his big break came with the town’s top employer, Seibels Bruce Insurance Company, whose Vice President of Human Resources Bill Shealy needed of a set of chair casters. When Mr. Olsen drove to fit those casters himself, word of Miller’s personal service began to spread and business grew. That same time, Miller’s took on Modern Partitions, a furniture company manufacturing panels that divided the open office environment to give employees personal space. Seeing the potential for this product, Mr. Olsen took the line and ran with it. Modern Office Modules later changed its name to Haworth and became the first workstation manufacturer to provide electrical capabilities. In turn, Miller’s became one of the first dealers to sell Haworth products, again to Seibels Bruce Insurance Company in 1976.
The early years continued to be challenging, from price controls in the early 1970s to double-digit inflation and interest rates in the late 1970s and early 1980s. A 1976 tornado destroyed the showroom and a fire gutted the warehouse in 1979, yet Miller’s kept moving forward. The year 1982 saw the company at a crossroads: Miller’s furniture business was steadily climbing yet machine sales were flat and declining. In response, Mr. Olsen made the difficult decision to sell the machines division and focus completely on the office furniture market. Since this pivotal day in our history, Miller’s has specialized in providing superior furniture interiors backed by stellar customer service. Even though Mr. Olsen passed away in 2004, his legacy lives through family members still actively involved in Miller’s today.
Little did Mr. Olsen know that his visionary work in 1969 would be the foundation for Miller’s success 40 years later. Miller’s is now one of the largest office furniture dealerships in the Southeast and the only Haworth Preferred Dealer in South Carolina. We pride ourselves in our decade-long customer relationships with reputable companies like Blue Cross Blue Shield, Scana, Charleston Public Works, Charleston County Schools, General Electric, Hubbell Lighting, First Federal of Charleston, SouthCoast Community Bank and Carolina First. The Miller’s team serves customers nationwide and installs major furniture projects across the globe, representing more than 400 office furniture and commercial interior products manufacturers, all backed by our special brand of Total Logistics Coordination, known as Miller’s TLC.