End of an era as Millers goes up for sale
Millers of Manuka
After 55 years as a family business, owner Dorothy Roberts is putting Millers of Manuka on the market to be sold. Photo: Karleen Minney
Canberra institution, the high fashion store Millers of Manuka, is to be put on the market for the first time since its opening in 1957.
The store was opened at the same location 55 years ago by Mary Miller and then continued by her daughter Dorothy Roberts, who originally returned to Canberra in 1971 from Mount Isa with her geologist husband Bert to help run the business.
Her own daughter Sue Roberts also helped run the store, starting as a young girl unpacking the clothes out the back.
Mrs Roberts said she was turning 75 next year and it was a good time to hand the fashion emporium over to new owners.
Millers of Manuka would not be closing its doors. It would be sold as a going concern with the staff to continue with the business.
"It is time and I'm hoping that the Millers name will still be here in another 25 years and we're hoping we'll get a buyer who is able to carry on," she said.
The hope was that the site would not to be turned over to another eatery on the famous restaurant strip of Franklin Street.
"Mary had a dream to bring quality fashion and service to Canberra women and her dream has come true," Mrs Roberts said.
"The business is now leaving the family and we are looking for a new owner who understands and will uphold the long-standing traditions of Mary's dream."
Dame Joan Sutherland and prime ministerial wives Dame Pattie Menzies, Sonia McMahon, Tamie Fraser and Annita Keating were all customers of Millers.
Mrs Roberts said Dame Joan came in just the once and was "such a beautiful, gracious lady".
"She bought quite a voluminous, voluptuous kaftan. But she made us all feel just so at ease," she said.
And Mrs Roberts remained ever discreet when asked who was the most stylish woman to shop in the store.
"All our customers are stylish," she said.
Mary Miller initially imported labels starting with Jaeger and also added Australian labels such as Carla Zampatti and Prue Acton.
The store now stocks purely overseas labels such as luxury brands Armani and Missoni.
Mrs Miller bought the store when it was a "little haberdashery shop" selling "buttons, hat elastic and school uniforms" and within a few years had transformed it into a high fashion outlet.
Mrs Roberts says Millers of Manuka has always been about more than just fashion.
"It goes beyond selling clothes, it's the friendships that have been built up," she said.
"There are three generations who have shopped with us and the connections are very, very close."