Twenty years come September, and the Miller’s Creek shop, or shops, rather, are still plugging along, under the same ownership and offering, in many cases, the same merchandise.
“Debby & Trooper Evans, Proprietors,” reads the business card, but Evans handles most of the day-to-day affairs. Trooper mainly meets and greets the customers, with a gentle smile and wagging tail (he’s an elderly golden retriever).
Evans oversees the side-by-side operations, but has delegated management duties to Alice Miller at the wicker shop, and Gail Quillen covers everything else — cards, gifts, candles, cheese spreads and homemade fudge, to name a few.
Locals have shopped at these two stores for decades — long before Evans came along, and coming up on her 20th year in the business, she’s been around a while herself.
Originally from Sharptown, Md., just west of Laurel, she moved to her place on (where else) Miller Creek, in the 1970s.
“I just moved to get away from my parents, but I was a little bit of a chicken, so I didn’t move too far,” she joked (her mother had a place in Selbyville).
Evans fell into her new profession as shopkeeper back in the mid-1980s.
She remembered shopping around Millville at what was then the Gift Spot, run by Jim and Electa Evans (no relation). The couple was nearing retirement age, and Evans (Debby, that is) was hunting for a card one day when the subject came up — maybe she’d like to take over the shop.
In 1985, she did just that. “I basically kept it the way she (Electa) had it, for quite a while,” Evans recalled.
Then there was the Millville hardware store, right next door — it had been around even longer than the gift shop (which was built in the mid-1950s), she pointed out. According to Evans, Dick Wood and Wilbur Hocker had opened that business back in 1947.
The hardware store came up for sale in late 1989, and Evans picked that up as well. Other than the fact that she started selling antiques instead of hardware, and now sells new wicker instead, not much has changed around Miller’s Creek since then.
She characterized herself as a long-time collector, and regular attendee at annual Ocean City flea markets. “I always did love antiques, even as a child,” Evans admitted.
She filled the old hardware store with some of her favorites, and also opened a beauty shop in the back. The antiques are gone now, but Theresa Lewis still does hair, Wednesday through Saturday (by appointment, call 541-0600).
Evans said she’d flip-flopped the shops at the advice of one of the beauty shop patrons — she’d been selling quite a few pieces, and the 3,200 square foot space was starting to look a little bare.
She moved the furniture to the smaller store, gifts to the larger store, in 1991. “That gave us more room to expand — I mean, we already had the Hallmark cards, the gifts and Christmasey items and the candles, but we were able to do all that in a much bigger way,” Evans pointed out.
She moved the furniture to what had been the gift shop, and eventually transitioned to new (she said it had started getting harder and harder to find the antiques she wanted).
Some items, though, Evans continues to sell as she has from the beginning, nearly 20 years later — oak porch rockers, from the Hinkle company in Tennessee, for instance.
There’s a deck between the buildings, where she displays a fair bit of the durable vinyl wicker, with a various natural wicker furnishings and decorations inside.
Coastal Point • SAM HARVEY
Miller’s Creek donates a portion of proceeds from sales of these decorative crocks back to the Millville Volunteer Fire Company.
Miller said they mostly sold to newcomers, although a few locals with seasonal rentals stopped in to buy furnishings for their rental apartments. She noted a reasonable price range — they offer small bedside stands for as low as $20, up to television corner stands for $250.
And, there are wicker lamps and oversized model boats. “Whenever you have wicker, you’re naturally going to have a nautical line,” Evans pointed out. Miller Creek delivers, she added — they keep a pair of trucks out on the road.
Back in the gift shop, there are customized lamp shades (Evans said she couldn’t reveal her sources), the Hallmark cards, as noted, Department 56 collectibles and the Willow Tree line of figurines.
There are gifts for the guys, too — Evans has stocked a small section devoted to NASCAR, and there are crocks commemorating the Millville Volunteer Fire Company. Members get a 25 percent discount, and whenever a non-member buys a crock, Evans donates 25 percent of the proceeds back to the fire company.
She said she still took trips up to Lancaster with some regularity (always with Trooper as copilot), in search of Amish charm.
The back of the store is filled with Yankee candles (Quillen favored the Clean Cotton fragrance, Evans preferred French Vanilla), and the checkout counter is surrounded by old-style temptations — glass cases stocked with penny candies, chocolates and several fudge varietals (Amaretto, perhaps, or the summer special, Creamsicle).
Where to begin? As Quillen pointed out, “We have a little bit of everything, to please everyone.” It’s all there, at Miller’s Creek in Millville — for more information, call 539-4513.