Sunday, April 6, 2014

Paul Miller walks on

Paul Michael Miller, Sr. died of heart failure on Wednesday, April 2, 2014 in Spearfish, SD. He was 68. Paul was born on November 8, 1945 in Deadwood to David M. Miller Sr. and Frances "Jackie" Miller. Paul attended school in Deadwood and college at Black Hills State University. Together with his father and brother, he owned Twin City Fruit & Produce, a wholesale distribution company started during the 1940s. Miller became a prominent Deadwood businessman and member of the Deadwood City Council. Twin City Fruit was sold to a national firm, Sysco, in 1990. [obituary, Sioux Falls Argus Leader]
For a time, Lloyd West, Mike Trucano, and Paul Miller owned Deadwood: the Thorpe's strike took down West, cocaine and philandering took Paul down leaving Trucano to retire a rich Republican donating to the Governors Club. After gambling came to the Gulch and Paul got caught trying to put his dick in the help he sold Twin City Fruit's territories, but kept his assets deciding not to build a warehouse in Spearditch.

Paul's cousin Kevin Miller is featured in this ip post. Kevin's dad built the Miller Ranch on old US14 in Spearditch.

Paul's dad Dave, his uncle Paul, and Kevin's dad Bruce built Twin City Fruit: they told stories about beating checks back to Deadwood driving rickety old trucks on gravel roads from Deadwood to Denver's Denargo Market peddling produce from Scottsbluff, Nebraska back to the Gulch. They owned the Scottsbluff market back-hauling beet sugar and Rockyford melons from the area. Denver-based competitor Nobel also distributed there, it was absorbed by Houston-based Sysco: it is the division that ultimately bought TCF.

Behind the warehouse on Miller Street hundred pound sacks of Colorado and Nebraska potatoes were unloaded from the rail spur that is now home to the Mickelson Trail.

In a horsehair coat and hat, Paul seduced a former ip bartender/girlfriend in 1978 and prompted my move to Missoula, Montana. I returned to Deadwood in '81 and was hired as a truck driver by Paul, a mad genius, who ran the transportation. Brother David, Jr., now a local historian, ran the staff and warehouse until selling his share to Paul while Dave, Sr. ran purchasing. A college friend, with whom I had logged, started working on his doctorate in economics as a truck driver for the family and told Paul about my expertise with heavy equipment.

Paul put me into sales in '83 then sold me to Sysco during the Rally in 1990. Yearly receipts for the company had peaked at about $22 million at the time of the sale. Territories had expanded to Greybull, Wyoming, into North Dakota, and east to Pierre.

Operating with a ramshackle fleet earned Paul both moxie and derision for his cutthroat approach to guarding the local Black Hills market. The owners of rival Manor House in Rapid City hated Paul: they failed in the 80's.

The years working for Paul were among the best of my life: Deadwood before 1989 is lost forever. After gambling he actively sought to buy up the air space in the Gulch believing cable cars would span it.

Some of us called him the Anti-Christ of Architecture for his Goldbergian approach to improvisation. He had two salvage mobile homes lifted to the top of the warehouse that served as office space for at least three decades. Before the dawn of historic preservation he bought the Fish & Hunter building and built a three story freezer in the middle of it. After gambling he sold it to the City of Deadwood for a dollar: it is now part of the City/County complex.

He will be missed.

The slide in Washington State brought Deadwood's slough-off potential into light again: the Presidential section is at risk in my view, not to mention the cliff crumbling into the back of the Cadillac Jacks complex.

Reconstruction and adaptive re-use of the Pineview Building on Lee Street looks pretty good from the outside.

1 comment:

larry kurtz said...

Tom Griffith interviewed former TCF general manager, Bill Pearson for a report on Paul's history linked here.