Since 1890, Miller Paint has been making quality paints locally in the Pacific Northwest.

Miller Paint Company has a rich heritage and history that began in Portland, Ore., in the late 1800s. The small family-owned business was founded in 1890 by Ernest Miller, who arrived in Portland from Germany in 1885. A muralist and scenic artist who painted houses on the side, Miller was unhappy with the paints that were available at the time, believing the quality did not stand up to the demands of the Pacific Northwest weather.

Miller purchased a stone mill in a barn on Northeast San Raphael Street and began grinding his own pigments and manufacturing his own paints. Residents in Portland marveled at the color retention and durability of the paint on homes painted by Ernest Miller. His products were of such good quality that other paint contractors came to him to ask if they could use “Ernest Miller Paint” and the Miller Paint Co. was born.

In 1905, Miller opened his first paint store, on Southwest Front Avenue in Portland. A horse-drawn carriage would deliver the house paint to customers around the city.

Miller had three sons––Ernest Jr., Herb, and Walt––who were all involved in the business. The two oldest left Portland to fight in World War I, leaving Walt to quit high school in 1916 to work full-time in the family business. Herb is credited with designing the current Miller Paint windmill logo, while Walt developed the very first company slogan, “Things are Looking Better with Miller Paint.” The older Miller sons rejoined the company after the war, but only Walt stayed with the company, serving as company manager until his death at the age of 90 in 1990.
In 1926, the current Grand Avenue location was built on the Central Eastside of Portland to house a new Miller Paint store, along with the manufacturing plant, and the corporate office. During World War II, the company manufactured paint for the U.S. Navy and the Merchant Marine.

Miller Paint grew and flourished through two plant relocations, in 1933 and 1955, and into the 1970s with expansion into three new stores in Ballard, Wash., Beaverton, Ore., and Vancouver, Wash. Construction on what is now the current corporate headquarters and manufacturing plant, located on Whitaker Way in Northeast Portland, began in 1975, with manufacturing operations starting up in 1978. The corporate offices were eventually moved to Whitaker Way from the Grand Avenue location in 1995.

The 1980s and 1990s saw seven new stores open in Oregon: in Gresham, Salem, Corvallis, Tualatin, Oregon City, Eugene, and Portland (on 82nd Avenue); and another in Burien, Wash. in 1995. The 13th store, in Salmon Creek, Wash., was completed and opened in 2000.

Steve Dearborn arrived in 2000 as only the third CEO in the company’s history. He developed a 10-year strategic plan in 2001; and a second again in 2011. Miller Paint went on to open or acquire 43 additional new Miller Paint stores, including an expansion into Idaho, for a total of 56 stores and more than 300 employees in 2019.

It was always Walt’s dream that the company remain independent and an employee-owned company. The foundation for employee ownership began in the early 1980s when a company stock bonus plan was initiated to spread ownership to a broader base of Miller Paint employees. The adoption of the current Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) in 1999, coupled with the November 2000 buyout of the last large block of individually owned stock, marked the start of the new era for Miller Paint.

Miller Paint Co.’s foundation has been built on the trust of its customers. That trust permeates through its employee ownership, focus on superior product quality, providing extraordinary customer service, and a deep involvement in the community. The collaborative spirit at Miller Paint is built on a teamwork of trust and a culture that rewards excellence, integrity and innovation in all aspects of the business.

Steve Dearborn
CEO & President