Miller Paint executive stirs up excitement in Parkrose

Learn how one local company has kept reinventing itself for 100 years – and find what else is happening, as we catch up with the Parkrose Business Association.

Paul Sawyer of Miller Paints shows a new line of “green designer” paints the company is putting on the market.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Last month’s meeting of the Parkrose Business Association featured Miller Paint Co.’s secret of success; how a local family is “tops in taps” – actually all kinds of dancing shoes and apparel; a scholarship financial appeal; and more information on a new August 2nd area-wide event.

Miller paints a rosy future
In this age of business consolidation, Parkrose-based Miller Paint Company has resisted the “urge to merge”, and is one of the few stand-alone paint companies left, according to company President Paul Sawyer.

“We’re a fiercely independent company owned by 290 employees,” Sawyer declared.

President Paul Sawyer says the Miller Paint Company has been around for a century.

The paint company was founded by Earnest Miller, whose main occupation was being a muralist. “For the 1904 Exposition, Earnest Miller painted a large and long banner that depicted Lewis and Clark coming over Mt. Hood and ending in Oregon City,” Sawyer said.

The founder’s son, Walt Miller, worked with his father, and ended up running the company until he was 90 years old. In 1999, Miller became an employee-owned company.

Sets strategic plan
“Our industry is shrinking,” Sawyer said ruefully. “Now there are four major players. We knew we had to make a plan.”

The employee-owners created a “2010 Strategic Plan”, based on quality products and exceptional service. “We had to take what we did the best and kick it up a notch. We ask our people ‘Are you committed to it, and will you do it?'”

“Buying paint isn’t a spur-of-the-moment decision”, Sawyer explained. “In Portland, there are hundreds of places to buy paint. We had to create stores with a sense of destination, featuring good advice, fast service, and beautiful colors.”

Instead of simply handing out paint “chips”, Miller Paints’ line of designer-inspired paint samples now come in pouches.

Sawyer showed two small plastic cards; one was their “Basic Extraordinary Service Tool”, listing their seven points of good customer service.

“We call the other one the ‘Get out of jail free’ card. If an employee has the chance to really ‘wow’ a customer with great service – you do it. If your supervisor questions you about it – you hand them the card,” Sawyer explained.

Product innovations
Sawyer touted their “green” line of zero-solvent-based products – and said that Miller became a leader in reducing carbon-emissions by introducing the paint in 1996.

“Divine Color” was a new line of paint created by a Lake Oswego artist. “Instead of paint swatches, we ship small pouches of paint so the buyer can actually see the result on their own wall.”

Thanks to bio-mimicry, Sawyer says, rain will actually wash dirt off Millers’ newest paint.

“Miller has signed a 10-year exclusive agreement with a company in Germany that has been doing bio-mimicry – finding things in nature that are unique, and replicating them through manufacturing. Like the lotus plant, our newest coatings won’t absorb water. The point is, rain washes dirt-coated surfaces.”

In support of the August 2nd Parkrose Festival and Cruise-in, Wayne Stoll pitches, “50 banners will be placed along NE Sandy Boulevard. Your name should be on on!” Holding the sample banner are Amy Salvador and Ansley Stoll.

Businesses pitch in for scholarship fund
The Miller presentation done, the Parkrose Business Association’s President, Michael Taylor turned to the organization’s scholarship fund: “Last year, it rained on the Cruise-in, and we didn’t do well. We’ve struggled to provide all of the scholarships we wanted. It goes against our grain to reduce the number of scholarships.”

Then, Taylor announced that an anonymous donor has chipped in $500 to support a scholarship.

Nancy Murphy, Bank of the West, presents a sponsoring scholarship check for $500 to the Parkrose organization.

Bank of the West Manager Nancy Murphy, brought up a $500 check; and additional sponsorship was shared by Compaction & Recycling Equipment and Bob Brown Tires. Taylor announced, “We’ve got it covered. This is what makes our community great.”

Kyle Ziegler talks about their family’s new business, Carrie B’s Dance Shop.

Parkrose people buy Midway-area business
The spotlighted business at this particular meeting was Carrie B’s Dance Shop. “In May, we bought this 35-year old business,” said owner Kyle Ziegler – also the owner of CastleGate Realty in Parkrose. “The previous owner built an Internet-based business from the 575-square-foot storefront; we ship dancewear, shoes, and accessories around the world.”

Meet the members
The Parkrose Business Association, one of our favorite groups, meets at one of our favorite restaurants.

Come on June 19 at 11:30 a.m. and meet this group of fun and energized businesspeople. This month, the PBA Scholarship Committee presents the Parkrose High students selected for scholarship awards. And, you’ll learn more about the all-new Parkrose Festival & Cruise-in in August.

You’ll get the best business lunch at town at Steamers Restaurant, 8303 NE Sandy Blvd. (east of NE 82nd Avenue); NO reservations required. For info: www.parkrosebusiness.org.

© 2008 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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