Thomas J. Milam, known to us as "Pop," was our dad and grandfather. An honest and hardworking man who inspired us with his dream - to service and meet the needs of the community. Before his passing in the year 2000, he wrote in his memoirs about the challenges he faced growing up during a generation affected by The Great Depression and the Second World War. However, Pop succeeded in spite of these challenges, proving that through dedication and relentless perseverance, anything is possible.
Pop grew up in a small, rural farming town. Outside the corn, cotton, sorghum and soybean farming which supplied his family's livelihood, one of his first jobs during high school was working at J.C. Penney. This day-to-day work cultivated a set of business, sales, advertising, and merchandising skills which would later contribute to his future success. And, although he was offered a full-time position after high school with J.C. Penney, fate would have him instead enlist for active military duty in the midst of a world war.
In 1942, Pop graduated the Air Corps training school as a Flight Officer; which he described, at the time, as being "the highlight of my life." Afterwards, he joined a special group of flight officers and became the first of his group to be commissioned into the Air Corps. Unfortunately, he would soon receive orders for embarkation to the Pacific Ocean theater of World War II where he would be relocated to Saipan of the Mariana Islands, leaving his friends, family, and beloved newly-wed wife, Joan, behind. "You must realize that this parting was one of pain, for we really did not know if we would ever see each other again," Pop recalled.
During his deployment in Saipan, Pop flew several missions dropping supplies desperately needed over camps holding American prisoners of war. While returning to Saipan on one of these relief missions, Pop experienced extreme weather conditions with zero visibility and little remaining fuel. A controller on the ground located Pop's plane with a radar and directed Pop's every move for a safe landing for himself and his crew. "I can clearly recall almost every word he used as he advised us of our position on the glide path, a little above or a little below the glide path, a few degrees left, or a few degrees right….", Pop stated. "From that day, I have always felt that I was living on borrowed time, for this was the closest I had ever come to not being here today." Thankfully, Pop returned from the war unscathed and was reunited with his wife, Joan, and from 1949 to 1962 they had 10 children together (8 boys and 2 girls).
In the years following the war, the grocery industry was growing at a tremendous pace as independent "mom and pop" grocery stores were opening at every street corner. Pop saw an opportunity here and ventured into the grocery industry in 1950 with Malone & Hyde (M&H), a large food wholesaler who distributed food to independent grocery chains. For the next 26 years, Pop tirelessly worked his way up in management until he was finally asked to transfer to Miami, Florida, to head up M&H's acquisition of the grocery wholesaler Hill Brothers. As a Division Manager, Pop wanted independent retailers to succeed and have the ability to grow their businesses. It was important to him that his customers and independent retailers have access to the resources that would allow them to be both competitive and successful in the marketplace. As fate would have it, Pop's transfer to Miami would end up being the opportunity that would later give him the chance to fulfill his dream of returning to retail.
One day, as Pop was sitting on the back porch of his Miami home with his then 21-year-old son, Allen, he asked, "Allen, what is it you want to do?" and Allen replied "I've always wanted to be in the grocery business." Pop without hesitation proposed, "You get in and learn the business and when I retire we'll open up a store together." Allen spent the next 8 years working in and learning the grocery retail industry with various independent operators. Starting as a stock clerk, Allen quickly worked his way up the ladder into management positions. In 1983, Allen knew he was ready and, along with Pop, the two of them decided it was time to embark on a new journey as an independent grocery retailer. Together they co-founded their own company, known as Milam's Market today, and opened their first store in 1984 at the corner of Red Road and Bird Road in Miami, which is still in operation to this day.
Allen and Pop's store, Milam's Markets, has always had a strong emphasis on perishables and strived to provide the best quality and variety of products while setting a new standard for customer service. As the years passed, Allen sought out opportunities for growth and opened stores in Miami Springs, Coconut Grove, and Sunny Isles Beach; and with increased workload he recognized the need for a strong leadership team. Since the founding of the company, several of his siblings and many of their children have joined the Milam's team (13 family members in total). Allen retired as Chief Executive Officer in 2015, and the Company continues to seek to extend its footprint in Miami-Dade County with a new store scheduled to open in the Village of Pinecrest during the summer of 2018.
At Milam's Markets, we operate our stores based on the morals and values instilled in us growing up, inspiring us to leave a positive impression on the communities we serve. We have always had a strong focus on family and every year we gather for a family reunion. The children of Pop and Joan, their spouses, grandchildren, and great grandchildren attend our reunions. It is a fantastic weekend of fun and memories!
As a family business, we work diligently to offer the best quality in products, extensive variety, and unparalleled service, each and every day. We have always believed that a supermarket plays a vital role in the community and in those who inhabit it. We strive to constantly improve our customers shopping experiences and product offerings in order to make a positive difference in their lives. With the help of our supportive communities, caring associates, strong management team, and continued family involvement, Milam's Markets looks to continue growing in Miami-Dade County and improving ourselves for decades to come, and to have the privilege of serving you as "Miami's Family Grocer."