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From its 1939 beginning as a livestock auction started by Howard’s father, Sol Miller, to the present-day group of companies that include the Hartville MarketPlace and Flea Market, Hartville Kitchen, Hartville Hardware, Hartville Collectibles, Hartville Kitchen Salad Dressing, Top Advantage Surfaces and Hartville Tool, HRM Enterprises has always been a family-owned and oriented business.
The business had a very humble beginning, as Sol Miller purchased a two-acre plot on the corner of Market and Edison streets for $400. Sol then utilized the help of many in the community – as well as lumber cut from his father’s farm – to construct a 40-foot-by-80-foot sale barn for less than $1,000. The first sale was held on October 30, 1939, and the total of all livestock sold that day came to $535.
A lunch stand was opened on the second floor of the barn, operated by Sol’s wife, Soloma. The auction grew and prospered, with additions in 1942 and 1947. The mid-40s also marked the beginning of the sale of produce and eggs – and after the very first case of eggs was sold, it was run over by a truck, breaking every egg. Around this time also marked the beginning of the flea market, as Sol started renting spaces to others to sell their merchandise.
In 1952, a grocery store and service station were added. In 1958, upon Sol’s death, his son, Howard Miller, began operating the business for his mother, Soloma. Along with Moses Yoder, Howard began leasing the business from his mother the following year.
The grocery was changed to a dry goods and variety store in 1962, when a new gas station was built and the old one was converted into a coin shop. The variety store was open until 1966, when the health department told Howard he could no longer operate a lunch stand above a livestock auction. He decided to close the dry goods store, and on March 4, 1966, opened the Country Kitchen restaurant in its place. People lined up to eat at the new restaurant, where all meals were $1 except shrimp, which was $1.25
Later in 1966, as Hartville evolved from a rural farm community to a fast-growing suburban area, the livestock auction was closed. Another new gas station was built across the street in 1970, and the old station was converted into a larger dining area for the restaurant.
In 1976, with the farm population continuing to decline, the egg and produce auction was closed. The last auction took place on the last Monday of the year. The next year saw the beginning of another new venture, as the company began to sell its salad dressing to stores across the area.
The new Hartville Kitchen was opened at its present location in 1995, which seats about 400 people in the dining room and 500 in the banquet room.
Howard Miller passed away on May 27, 2001. The name of the parent company was changed from Hartville Auction to HRM Enterprises in his memory. Howard was a natural entrepreneur, and he envisioned the current MarketPlace and Flea Market several years ago. Howard’s son-in-law, Marion Coblentz, began running the flea market in 1980 and saw Howard’s vision to fruition with the opening of the MarketPlace on September 5, 2002. Marion still runs the MarketPlace today.
Howard Miller Jr. has been the head of HRM since his father’s passing. A brother, several sisters and their spouses and 13 third-generation family members have helped continue to make the businesses successful.
HRM Enterprises strives to carry on the Miller family traditions that were started 70 years ago. The family continues to run the businesses with the same standards of doing business that were instilled in Howard by his father when he lived out his lifelong dream by opening a small livestock auction on the corner of Market and Edison in 1939.