When Patti and Gary Miller started Wana Engine Center in 1980, they chose, Treat our customers like we would like to be treated, as their motto. That commitment to customer service has paid huge dividends for the Millers. What started as a four person operation has expanded to 14 employees and a global customer base reaching as far away as Australia and Dubai.

A 1973 graduate of Bethany Christian High School, Gary went to work with his father, Paul, who was part owner at Wana Hardware in Shipshewana. In 1974, Gary was put in charge of the hardware's small power equipment division. "It was basically a one man operation," Miller said, "but we decided to see if we could make it grow." When asked about his interest in small engines, Gary smiles and admits that, "I always expected to be in the hardware business, but that area needed help, and it was where I fit into the business. That area needed help, so I went in and applied myself, and I enjoyed it." Clearly a good fit.

Gary and Patti, who worked as a part-time bookkeeper for the hardware, got married in 1974. Then in 1980, the couple purchased the power equipment business from Wana Hardware and began doing business out of one room in the adjacent building on the north side of the Shipshewana Shopping Center. With a staff of four, the small space was adequate, but as the business grew so did the need to expand. Eventually Wana Engine took over more space in the building. In 1993, Gary moved the business to its current location on the north end of Shipshewana next to the fire station.

It hasn't all been easy. Competition from the big chain stores has forced power equipment stores to diversify in order to survive. Gary says that they tried several things before they found their niche. For several years they had a lawn irrigation business and a construction equipment rental business, both of which were later sold and became successful in their own right. It was his banker, Kerry Sprunger, who suggested that he consider selling RVs.

Gary says he thought about it for six months, but concluded that with all the paperwork it was just too complicated. Then one day the president of Dutchman came into the store to buy an expensive mower and Gary told him that he had been thinking about getting into the RV business. The man told Gary, "The way you sell mowers, you can sell RVs. I'll have a salesman call you." A salesman called him that same day and within three days Wana RV was in business. That was in 2003, and today Wana RV annually ships campers to Australia, Canada, Europe and across the United States.

Some time later, a Topeka manufacturer invited him to come see their new line and asked Miller to be their local dealer, offering to buy back any unsold units. "I don't think I was smarter than anybody else," Gary mused. "It all just came together and I give God all the credit."

The years have brought numerous changes, especially as it relates to their Amish customers. Initially sales to the Amish were limited to stand alone engines because of church rules. Today they are allowed to purchase garden tillers, power mowers, generators ... just not riding lawn mowers.

The advent of the internet has resulted in dramatic changes. A large portion of their sales now comes from online. "I didn't know what I was doing when we set up our website, but fortunately we got it right," Gary is quick to acknowledge. "Today we sell thousands of generators across the United States; we ship every day." One of their generators recently went to Dubai on the Persian Gulf.

In 2010, Patti retired and the couple's son, Justin, joined the business. This year Justin purchased 50% ownership in the company. While Gary isn't looking to retire anytime soon, he is planning for the day when the family business will go on without him.

Gary and Patti Miller have two children, Justin and Jill, and five grandchildren.