Miller Paint joins the community to take The Paint Bucket forward

By Ben Olson
Reader Staff

The second time is proving to be the charm when it comes to retirement for Harold and Liz Stephenson, longtime owners of The Paint Bucket. The Stephensons announced in early June that Miller Paint would take the business forward.

“They bought the business and the name will stay The Paint Bucket,” Harold told the Reader. 

Miller Paint is no stranger to the painting industry. The company was founded in Portland, Ore. in 1890 by German immigrant and scenic painter Ernest Carl Bernard Mueller. Mueller, who eventually changed the spelling of his surname to “Miller,” worked as a scenic artist and muralist in theaters around Portland.

More than 130 years later, Miller Paint owns 57 stores in Washington, Idaho and Oregon.

Representatives from Miller Paint meet with Harold and Liz Stephenson to shake hands on the deal. Back row, from left to right: Byron Nelson, Joel Nelson, Jim Gage, Steve Volentine and John Stanley. Front row, from left to right: Nathan Dionne, Liz Stephenson, Harold Stephenson, longtime Paint Bucket employee Payton Evans and Bev Kee. Courtesy photo.

“We’re Pacific Northwest locals,” said Joel Nelson, who worked as Miller Paint store manager in north Spokane for the past three years before the company decided to take on The Paint Bucket in Sandpoint, tapping him as the selling manager.

With deep roots in the Pacific Northwest, Miller Paint is also manufactured in Portland and, as of about 20 years ago, employee owned.

It was this dedication to the old way of doing business that attracted the Stephensons to Miller Paint.

“We were extremely excited, because with Miller Paint, they have the same feel,” Harold said. “Their people think like we think. The customer always comes first, and they enjoy working directly with customers. It’s a really nice group of people.”

“This fits so well for Sandpoint,” said Liz. “I want people to look up Miller Paint and see for themselves. … We were approached by a lot of people to put something in this beautiful building, and then without any solicitation, Miller Paint came along and they were our best choice. Harold and I really wanted to keep it as a paint store.”

The Stephensons said they’d stay on for a couple of months during the transition.

“After that, we’ll transition back to retirement,” Harold said. “But we’re not ready to give up dealing with people and paint yet.”

In the meantime, Nelson said he is looking forward to carrying forward the legacy set by the Stephensons at The Paint Bucket.

“I will 100% move here from Post Falls,” Nelson said. “With a store like this, you want to be fully engulfed in the community. That was an important aspect of Miller’s decision for who was going to run the store and be fully invested in the community. … We’re going to keep it as The Paint Bucket. That was the main thing; we didn’t want to come in and change everything because everything works. We just want to bring in a local, good product to our customers.”

To learn more about Miller Paint, visit, or stop by The Paint Bucket to introduce yourself to the new crew. Don’t forget to say farewell to Harold and Liz Stephenson, because it sounds like — this time — retirement might stick.

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