Q & A with Owner of Miller’s Amish Country Store & Cookbook Giveaway

Today I get the privilege of introducing you to my mother, Beverly Anne Miller: the cutest character you will ever meet and the owner of Miller’s Amish Country Store, which is a setting in my debut novel, The Outcast. I used to work for my mother in the summers when I was a teenager. She was a ”tough” boss (not really true — well, except when she forced me to wave at traffic, wearing a kid’s Amish dress), but always a loving mom. I am now honored to call her friend. This is our interview. . . .

J) Tell us a little about your Plain background.

B) My Plain Old Order Mennonite heritage is from my grandmother, Verna Reist Mummau Grove (three generations of family names). My Grandpa Norman died in his sleep when I was about 10 years old. They had three children, but my Aunt Erma died of diphtheria at the age of six years old. There was Uncle Lester, my mother Charlotte’s older brother. He left at about age eighteen and joined the Korean War as a front line supply truck driver. It broke my Grandma’s heart because the Mennonite belief of Pacifism and “Thou shalt not kill.”

She (Verna) was a little woman, hardworking , loved her garden and flowers, made braided rugs from old wool coats and quilted and hand-caned chairs for a living. She also did mending of other folks’ cloths. She read her Bible daily and would tell me stories that she read that day. She was not very warm, but would like if I hugged or kissed her.

J) What was your favorite childhood memory?

B) My favorite childhood memory most of the time included horses, but our weekly trips to New Holland Sale’s Stables in Pennsylvania were very fun to me. Usually we girls (3 or 4) went along to work, clean, and show the horses my dad was selling: riding them in the sales ring to be auctioned. One time, I’m not sure who got the idea (I was not the ring leader), but we went up to a store and bought this small can of Bangs.

They were little fireworks you could stick in cigarettes or cigars and when lit, they’d blow up and scare the person as a joke. Well, our Daddy liked a good cigar, so he would keep a box under the seat of his old Dodge truck.

We decided to load up the cigars and hand them out to the Amish barn/stable workers, and — of course — one for our dear dad, too. Well, after we handed them out, we sat up on the stands and waited for the excitement to begin, and boy, did it! The men leading in the horses lit up and BANGS went off in many directions and horses ran wildly. We decided to make a quick exit to the alley in case they put it together. Later that afternoon, when things settled down, we handed Dad his special cigar.He was talking to a potential costumer, so he pulled out his pocket knife and, without losing his train of thought, cut the end off and lit it up. We stood farther than the length of his buggy whip and watched with a smirk. Dad had noticed that, too.

Beverly Miller’s “momma and daddy.”

Well, he was okay for about a minute, and I think it was Darlene who put one last Bang up in the middle of the cigar, another draw, and BANG! The cigar curled up to his lips. He spit it on the ground and said, “That could’ve burned my lips!” He somehow loved our mischief and laughed it off. But my Grandma’s Uncle Abe did not find any of it funny and told us so with looks that could kill as well as with words.J) Who was the most influential person in your life?

B) My Grandmother Verna and my mother. I loved my momma, but in my teen years, I was trying to find my own way, but she (my mother) was wise. She got me a job washing dishes at age fourteen years old at Mt. Joy Diner next to my Grandma’s house. I would often stay overnight with her, and we grew close. Grandma was a good listener. I worked there ’til age twenty-one years old, and even when I could drive, I still would stop in and see her and take tapioca or egg custard. She would ask, “So who you dating?” I would tell her and most times she knew the parents and she’d say, “Boch!” That’s Dutch for “not good,” or at least that’s what it meant to me!

When I was aged nineteen, she again asked who I was dating, and I said, “Merle Miller.” (We’re not related. Millers are like Smiths in Lancaster, PA.) And then she asked who his parents were. I said, “Merle and Ada. They’re members at Good’s Mennonite Church.” Her eyes lit up, and she smiled and exclaimed, “HE’S THE ONE! HE’S THE ONE!”

So I had to marry him. Just kidding, but her blessing was important to me. I was told the same counsel as my mother gave, but somehow I could take it from Grandma Verna. She had what today is called acid reflux (probably from heavy lifting) but at that time there was no treatment. She got stomach cancer and left this land for a far greater one. I was twenty-two and newly married, and I cried tears mingled with my momma’s that day.

J) What was the greatest surprise since moving from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, to Nashville, TN?

B) The warmth and acceptance of the local people. Here we were Yankees from the North to the South. I was taken aback by the friendly waves on the road of folks I didn’t know. So we made a game of it to see who could get the hand up the fastest. Then the first time I saw folks pull to a stop to honor the family in a funeral procession, I felt like crying. I love chatting at the grocery store with perfect strangers. I love the South. Can you tell?

J) How did you come up with the idea for your store?

B) Miller’s Amish Country Store came about when Caleb (our youngest) came to school age. I had tried to sell Amish baked goods out of our conversion van in the Wal-Mart parking lot and did real good. At supper, Merle and I were thinking of a place to open and sell more, so we talked to our Mennonite friends and Amish ladies to see if we could consign on their crafts such as doilies, quilts, wall hangings, and jams. They would, so now to find the place.

Merle was coming home from building a storage barn and saw a man fixing up an old pizza shop, so he stopped to inquire. The man said that three people were ahead of us and wondered what we would sell. When Merle said, “Amish baked goods and crafts,” he said it was ours. That was in May of 2003.

J) What’s been the greatest obstacle since you opened? The greatest triumph?

B) The hardest challenge was to keep care of my children and hubby and run a fulltime business, too. The first two years we made no profit; I made no salary. The money went for products /restocking shelves and paying my consigners. It was a struggle. Especially living a half hour away, lots of driving. We now live closer to the store, so driving is less.

I live by the golden rule and sadly have found out others do not, but I have decided to let that between them and God. My greatest triumph is seeing my business help our community grow and making friends with my regular customers.

J) Do most of the Mennonites and Amish accept you, though you are not Plain yourself?

B) I’d say most, if not all accept me. I have always tried to show respect for the way they believe and be honest in our dealings. I believe that is what God and our parents would want of me, which is important — as the store is in their honor.

J) Any advice for someone wanting to start a small business?

B) If you want to open a small business, first enjoy people and look for the good in mankind. Don’t do it for the money only, but to look to offer a service. Hang in there when things are slow, they will pick up. Keep looking for ways to expand: we now sell barns, swing sets, gazebos, pergolas, and lawn furniture. We expanded after seeing our big grassy lot and saying — again over supper — what could we do with it? These outbuildings are what keep us afloat, not bread. Bread’s just a drawing card.

J) Is there anything I haven’t asked that you would like to add?

B) Yes, I would like to add: I see [my store] as a source of ministry. Across my back wall it says, “Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord, praise ye the Lord.” There are days that folks come in hurting, so I pray for them. We have gone to three Amish weddings and, sadly, four funerals. We try to be God’s hands and feet in those times, too. I love my little store, and when this season ends, I will miss it. It’s a part of me; who I am, and I love that.

Thank you for having me on here and many blessings to all your readers,

Beverly

P.S. When y’all are in the area, stop in for a visit. : )

Miller’s Amish Country Store:

2471 Hwy. 41 South

Greenbrier, TN

(615) 643 – 7574

https://www.facebook.com/#!/MillersAmishCountryStore/

Leave a comment before midnight, March 1st, and we’ll put your name in the “bonnet” for a drawing of the Mennonite Community Cookbook our family has been using for six generations! Share this on Facebook or Twitter, and we’ll put your name in the bonnet twice! Share this in two different social media mediums (Facebook AND Twitter), and we’ll put your name in twice and give you a hug!

Thank you, dear readers, for playing along. We have selected a winner: Ana Raquel!

Xx


signature

Comments

  1. I love this! First, I’ve always had a fantasy of having a country store. Second, I find a lot of good advice and wisdom from this as I get ready to self publish my novel (basically a small business venture). Third, you know how I feel about mothers and daughters :) What a wonderful post, Jolina and Beverly!

  2. So glad you enjoyed it! It was a lot of fun to record the things I have heard all my life but still sometimes “forget.” I love the comparison between a small country store and self-publishing. Great correlation! You will do well, Julia! Xxoo

  3. Carey Boggs says:

    Your mother’s additional comment at the end just touched my heart. She sees this “job” instead as the ministry that the Lord has given her to reach/touch other people. “Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord, praise ye the Lord.” What a great reminder!

    • It is a great reminder, Carey. No matter what occupation we find ourselves in — wife, mother, accountant, writer…well–we both know I’ll never be an accountant! ; )

  4. Rebekah Monday says:

    Love it Jolina! Your momma sounds awesome. But she’d have to be to have such an amazing daughter. :-)

  5. Jenny Pendleton says:

    Thanks Jolina for lets us know more about your family. Your mom and dad have always been special people. I admire them for the way they live their lives. They are very caring people. Love to hear about you being a good wife and mommy. Keep up the good work! Love ya

  6. Cindi Altman says:

    I loved your story about the cigars. I literally laughed out loud reading it. Ü

    Please enter me in the contest to win a copy of your family cookbook.
    cindialtman(at)gmail(dot)com

  7. Oh, Jolina… this was such fun to get a glimpse of your family’s history! And suddenly …. I’m hungry for bread! Where I grew up in PA, we had Amish neighbors – the Millers, as well!

    Now help me understand the photos: both couples are your mom and dad (top and bottom photo)?

  8. What a beautiful store, and a wonderful story. Thank you to you and to your mom for sharing it with us. If I ever get to Tennessee, you can bet the store will be my first stop!

  9. Mennonite Cookbooks are great! We’ve had one for many years and use it alot! Would love to win this one! Enjoyed the interview! Will be retweeting your message.

  10. Will also be posting this on my blog in the next few days. linda[dot]maendel[at]gmail[dot]com

  11. How fun, wish I could come to the book launch.

  12. How cool! Throw my name in the bonnet! :)

  13. Kathy Faberge says:

    Loved your story!
    Kathy Faberge

  14. Loved reading about your mom’s childhood memories, and especially the story about the cigars! She seems like a very loving and wise woman. This is such wonderful advice, too: “If you want to open a small business, first enjoy people and look for the good in mankind.” Thanks so much for sharing!

    • She really is a fun lady, Natalia. Loves to laugh! I like that bit of advice, too, about seeing the good in mankind. Seems it could be applied to publishing as well. :)

  15. Amber Hyde says:

    Really great site! And I want my name in the bonnet too!!

  16. I would love to be entered to win the cookbook. That was so fun reading about your mom, her family, and that adorable store.

  17. Ginger Marshall says:

    I want to visit this store,it’s on my bucket list.Loved your sweet stories!

  18. Hi~~what a generous giveaway. I collect Amish Fiction books and would love to have a copy of this cookbook in my collection~~~I enjoyed reading your blog. This is the first time I have been on your blog site~~very nice.

  19. Cindi Altman says:

    I shared this on my FB page

  20. Oh my. I didn’t know the connection. How wonderful and pleasing to God is her “breath.” I love that verse. Let EVERYTHING that has breath praise the Lord. I think about that when the birds are singing. Now, if I don’t win the cookbook do you think Miss Beverly would write a blurb for In the Kitchen with Billy?

  21. Ana Raquel says:

    Hi Jolina,
    I enjoyed your story and it brought back memories of when I was the room mom for my daughter’s second grade class and I had to do some research about Amish Food & Culture. During this research I was able to add a few books to my Culinary Library of over 6,000 cookbooks!!! : ) This was an event for all the five second grade classes and I made Shoofly Pies for over 150 people! My daughter is now 25 years old and I still treasure these memories: ) As a Cookbook Collector, I certainly would love to add to my library the Mennonite Community Cookbook!!! : )

  22. Rebecca says:

    Jolina, Thank you for the opportunity.

  23. Your mom is such a sweetheart. When my grandmother was living in Greenbrier, I stopped in a lot more often to buy raisin bread for her. She passed in 2007 and most of my trips there are on Sundays now… but I think of them often when I pass by.

    • So glad you connected with me here, Marisa! I used to work at the store when I was in high school and in the summers during college. A dear place with a lot of memories! And I agree: my mom is certainly a sweetheart!

Trackbacks

  1. [...] July 13th, I had a book signing at my mother’s store, Miller’s Amish Country Store , in Greenbrier, [...]

Speak Your Mind

Connect with:

*