Eight Bells: Stan Miller
Published on November 21st, 2017
Stan Miller, the founder of Stan Miller Yachts, one of the West Coast’s premier yacht brokerages, passed away at the age of 91 on November 17 in Palm Desert, CA.
In the mid-1930s, Stan spent his summers sailing an eight foot dinghy in Newport Harbor. After serving in the U.S. Navy, Stan returned to his love of sailing and became heavily involved with racing, rigging and repairing sailboats.
In 1954, Stan realized he could transform his love for working with sailboats into a full-time business. In 1955, Stan along with his brother Jim Miller established Stan Miller Sailboats. Construction began with masts, rudders and leeboards in a two-level building that would later become the Stan Miller Sailboats & Hardware store in in Seal Beach, CA.
Close friend and sailmaker Lowell North, who was in the process of developing and growing North Sails, was located upstairs. In 1960, Stan Miller Sailboats became the first tenant in the newly constructed Marina Bazaar in Long Beach’s Alamitos Bay, where the business provided seafaring vessels to sailing enthusiasts and Hollywood celebrities.
Stan’s love of sailboat racing continued, and in the early 1970s, Miller and his partners bought a New Zealand-built sailboat RAGTIME. In the following years, Miller would captain RAGTIME to racing victories, with two wins of the Transpacific Yacht Race, racing from Los Angeles, Calif. to Diamond Head Lighthouse in Honolulu, Hawaii. Additional trophies were earned at the Mallory Cup, the California Cup, and other regional sailboat races.
Stan Miller Sailboats continued to flourish and began branching into motoryacht sales, with the company being re-named Stan Miller Yachts to reflect their growing market. In 1976, John Buettner joined Stan Miller Yachts as a Licensed and Bonded broker. He and his brother Brad Buettner had met Stan in 1965, when their family moved to Huntington Beach and purchased their first sailboat from Stan.
John remained a broker at Stan Miller Yachts until 1983, at which time he was joined by Brad and the two became partners with Stan Miller until Miller’s retirement in 1989. After his retirement, the Buettners took full control of Stan Miller Yachts and grew the company to be an industry leader for new and brokerage yachts.
Reflecting upon the beginning of their business partnership, Brad Buettner stated, “After graduating from the University of Southern California, Stan and Carolyn Miller asked me if I would join them for lunch at the Long Beach Yacht Club to discuss a business opportunity in the marine industry. It was at this lunch that Stan and Carolyn proposed a partnership at Stan Miller Yachts with John and myself as equal partners with Stan.
“It was an opportunity to join an industry leader that could not be refused. Over the years, both Stan and Carolyn Miller demonstrated virtues such as kindness, friendship, and enthusiasm for the marine industry that have been instrumental in my development and will have a lifelong impact on me. I will be forever grateful to them for their graciousness and willingness to allow me to be a part of the Stan Miller Yachts legacy.”
Stan’s great loves were sailing, music and his wife, Carolyn, who passed away in 2013. The pair enjoyed a robust retirement, living at times in Astoria, Oregon, and ultimately moving to Palm Desert.