Miller Diversified Celebrates Its 100th Anniversary

Brothers Kurt (left) and Jerry Miller are the third generation to operate the family business, Miller Diversified.

From a family-owned greenhouse on Dorr Street to a Maumee-based multifaceted company specializing in real estate development, construction, brokerage, property management and a real estate investment fund, Miller Diversified has steadily grown since 1920.

“One hundred years doesn’t happen by accident,” said Miller Diversified CEO Kurt Miller. “Many of the victories in my mind were being able to successfully navigate the challenges we’ve been confronted with.”

Miller Diversified was founded in 1920 as Miller Farms and Greenhouse by the sons of Henry Miller Sr. PHOTOS COURTESY OF MILLER DIVERSIFIED

In the early 1900s, Henry Miller Sr. started operating a greenhouse near The University of Toledo, with a farmstead at the corner of Dorr and Secor. Henry Sr. had five sons: Henry, Louie, Charlie and twin brothers John and Herman. In 1920, the sons decided to incorporate the business, working together to eventually build 8 acres of greenhouses. It took an entire train car of coal to keep the greenhouses heated on a cold night.

John later became a priest. Herman, the youngest, managed the greenhouse until he was too ill to carry out his duties, and the management was passed on to his son and daughter-in-law, Norman and Nancy Miller.

“In the beginning, the Millers were farmers. The father, Henry, was a farmer and he always had a dream to have a greenhouse, and that was the beginning of it all,” Nancy recalled.

The Millers grew the business for decades, even with the challenges of the Depression and wars. In the 1950s, prompted by the reduced cost of produce being shipped from the south on newly constructed interstate highway systems, the company pivoted to focus on real estate. Over time, the Millers rebranded to become Miller Diversified. Norman and Nancy’s sons, Kurt and Jerry, are the third generation of Millers to run the family business. 

Nancy, a second-generation shareholder, said she is proud the current leadership is carrying on the core values the company’s founders were known for a century ago.

Norman always advised his sons: Whatever you do, do well, even if it’s sweeping the floor, she said.

Herman Miller poses with some of his employees, many of whom were Polish immigrants.

The pivot to real estate was just one of several shifts over time. Many changes were instigated by economic pressures, such as the shift into construction during the Great Recession. 

“You have to change with time,” Kurt Miller said, “and the willingness to change takes vision and a lot of patience.”

Other changes were the result of strong relationships with partners in the community, such as 2017’s merger with Danberry Commercial.  

“The merger of Miller Diversified and Danberry Commercial joined two local companies with similar business philosophies,” said Tim Schlachter, president of Miller Diversified Realty. 

Miller Diversified embraces strong, positive business philosophies, which are rooted not only in the Miller family’s legacy, but also stem from the team members of Danberry Commercial, Jerry said. As part of the 100-year celebration, Miller Danberry will now be known as Miller Diversified Realty.

The company has left an indelible mark on the area with both commercial and residential projects. In 1978, Norman, while still operating under the name of Miller Farm and Greenhouse, was one of the founding developers of the Arrowhead Business Park, along with Ed Eppstein. Norman built one of the first buildings in the park at 1545 Holland Rd. and worked with Dick Ransom, then the president and CEO of Hickory Farms of Ohio, to bring the company headquarters to the park as an anchor business. 

The Miller brothers in 1920.

Some other recognizable commercial projects have included Briarfield Business Park, the Keystone Office Building and more recently the development of the Rossford land for Amazon and construction of the Lourdes University Russell J. Ebeid Recreation Center. The sports complex won the American Buildings Company 2017 Excellence in Design Award for both Building of the Year and earning gold-level status in the recreation category. For St. Aloysius Catholic Church, Miller Diversified built an addition and renovated the building – including the restoration of a two-story, 90-year-old mural that had been covered.  

Other notable projects: construction of two family care homes for Sunshine Inc. of Northwest Ohio, the Inverness Club’s interior renovation, football field construction for St. John’s Jesuit High School and Northview High School, athletic facilities for Perrysburg High School and Southview High School and the construction of area car dealerships such as Thayer Family Dealerships and Franklin Park Lincoln Mercury.

Miller Diversified has also developed several area communities, including Blystone Valley, Cross Creek Woods, Strayer Farms, Village of Fox Hollow and Villas at Blystone.

“As I reflect on our 100 years, it reminds me of the rings of a tree,” said Miller Diversified vice president Jerry Miller. “You see rings in which the tree grew a lot one year, or maybe not at all in another year … but the victory is the tree.”

To celebrate its 100th anniversary, Miller Diversified team members will perform 100 acts of kindness in the community. To learn more, visit www.millerdiversified.com/100years.

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