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Bill Miller, owner of Discount Fabric Warehouse chain, dies at 65

HILO, Hawai‘i — Businessman. Outdoorsman. Visionary. Philanthropist.

Those are words that have been used to describe Bill Miller, the owner of Discount Fabric Warehouse — a statewide business empire he built starting in 1995.

Miller, dubbed “The King of Cloth” in the headline for a 2015 Tribune-Herald feature article, died Jan. 29 at Hilo Medical Center. He was 65.

“We have two stores on this island, plus stores on Maui and Kaua‘i. We also bought another store in Honolulu,” Miller’s wife, Jessie Crusat Miller, told the Tribune-Herald on Tuesday.

The Big Island Discount Fabric Warehouse stores, which sell a multitude of fabric, sewing machines, patterns, thread, supplies and accessories are in Hilo and Kailua-Kona. The store Miller bought in Honolulu is Kaimuki Dry Goods.

The stores also hold classes and workshops on sewing, upholstery and related crafts.

Born in Salt Lake City, Miller was a salesman at the Singer sewing machine store in the former Kaikoo Mall in Hilo.

When the Singer Corp. went bankrupt in 1995, Miller went into business. His first store, in Hilo, opened June 15 that year in a 300-square-foot space in Ben Franklin. It’s now an 11,000-square-foot showroom on Kanoelehua Avenue.

Crusat Miller’s plan for the five-store chain is to “keep going, to follow his dream and help the community.”

“He always tried to give back to the community,” she said. “The community made his business thrive. He always felt you should have things for people to do.

“He was very, very giving.”

Among the numerous groups Miller helped with his time, money and resources was the Friends of the Children’s Criminal Justice Center of East Hawai‘i. He was honored by them in 2019 for his “Bags of Hope” program for abused children.

When Miller learned that children removed from abusive environments often carry their meager belongings in a black trash bag — an unfortunate occurrence social workers say can make the children, themselves, feel like trash — Miller organized volunteer sewists to make unique and colorful tote bags for the keiki.

He furnished all the materials and a classroom for the project. The Friends added thoughtful items to the bag, such as toothbrushes and toothpaste, coloring books, crayons, composition books, pencils, plus a stuffed animal for younger keiki and a travel pillow for older teens.

And while Miller’s stores supplied designers, hula halau and sewing hobbyists, Miller’s personal pursuits away from work gravitated more toward the outdoors.

“He was very fit,” Crusat Miller said. “He ran the Honolulu Marathon in 2022. He was a hiker. He was a bird hunter. He was very, very active.”

In addition to his wife, Miller is survived by sons, William (Brittney) Miller of Colorado Springs, Colo., and Allen (Iwalani) Miller of Vancouver, Wash.; stepdaughters, Tiffany (Max) Suzuki of Honolulu and Jasmine (Chris Aukai) Crusat of Kona; mother, Sally Miller of Salt Lake City; sister, Linda (Henry) Curry of Salt Lake City; and brother, John Miller of Hilo.

A celebration of Miller’s life is scheduled for 2-6 p.m. Friday, March 1, at the AJA Veterans Hall, 361 Haihai St. Casual attire is requested.

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Reporter John Burnett can be reached at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.
Source: The Garden Island

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