Miller's retirement from local pharmacy leaves hole in small business community

The letter sent to customers confirmed what a recorded message at the other end of the telephone line hinted at. 

Miller Professional Pharmacy was closed. Owner and pharmacist Mike Miller has embarked on retirement, as soon as he ensures smooth transitions.

That’s just like Miller. He can’t just sell a store and vanish. 

Instead, Miller’s putting in some hours with the buyer to smooth out any kinks for customers. And he sent out a sincere letter announcing the change, admitting he’s lost sleep over the decision.

“Many of you have been with me since 1980 when I first opened my pharmacy in Platte City,” Miller wrote. “Throughout the years, you have become my family. However, the time has come …”

Many Platte County families found friendly, heartfelt service at what was tagged as “Your Hometown Pharmacy.” 

Miller became a small business owner at a location near the former Platte Medical Clinic, then the only doctor’s office in Platte City. The closest hospital was Spelman Memorial Hospital in Smithville. 

Then the medical system heaved and hawed and major growth, new hospitals and medical offices came to the Northland. It felt odd when he moved the pharmacy to a new medical building off Running Horse Road, but the service was the same. The employees were friendly and helpful, and you could count on a bit of conversation with Miller that made you feel part of community. 

“Proud to be an Independent Pharmacy,” says a slogan on the old-fashioned paper bag prescriptions were placed in.

I wonder what types of businesses the young of today will feel sentimental about when they begin vanishing, as businesses are wont to do? It’s been awhile since we had a livery stable or a blacksmith shop in Platte County. 

Maybe they will rue the absence of cell phone and video game stores.

I’ve lived long enough to see small businesses in general wither from the streets of small towns. The young may wonder why we care, but it’s because we remember a certain individuality to stores that big boxes and strip mall chains have eliminated. 

And we remember people running those shops and services that cared deeply because they had a lot at stake, both their good names and finances. Bigger is rarely better regarding quality of service.

A health insurance change once forced my family to switch from Miller’s place to a national chain. The results were not favorable. It was a relief when insurance changed again and we could switch back.  

But economics and social trends push change forward. 

My most frequently visited grocery store in Platte City, small but with everything I needed and easy to reach, closed late last year. Customer choices drive economics so all we can do is adjust.

Miller sold his business to Cosentino’s Price Chopper Pharmacy, which is of course within Platte City’s remaining grocery store. Probably all is well. It’s a snappy and up-to-date market.

But I worry about the mental list in my head of single owner or family businesses that I’ve relied on and enjoyed. 

There’s the barber who has been cutting hair since Dwight Eisenhower was president, a car repair mechanic who knows how to keep high-mileage rattletraps running, a handy hardware store, and the farm supply place that seems to have just what you need for living off the beaten path. Time will take a few and economics may snip another. 

I admire small business owners in general. They must deal with paperwork and rules. 

A high cost of living in today’s world makes it hard for them to pay livable wages to employees. They once had to worry about competitors opening down the street or across town. Now they also worry about cut-throat competition arriving on their computer. 

Perhaps the pendulum will swing the other way in decades to come. New technology and customer preferences might favor small. 

For now, Miller ended his letter thus: “In closing, it has been an honor serving you. I value every interaction that we’ve shared, and I thank you for the many years of wonderful friendship and your business.”

Well Mike, many people wish you and staff the best. We get business letters in the mail all the time with friendly words, written by public relations pros and vetted by company lawyers.

But we know your words are true, trust long ago earned.

Bill Graham, who lives in the Platte City area, may be reached by e-mail at