“Can you believe this all started as a hobby?” asked Terrance Miller, co-owner of Buffalo Dallas, a Stone Mountain company that produces specialty items for traditionally Black fraternities and sororities. The company now supplies wholesale and retail customers throughout the country and internationally.
Buffalo Dallas was started by retired Army Major Dallas Miller, who initially created memorabilia honoring the Buffalo Soldiers, a nickname given to all-Black U. S. Cavalry regiments active between 1866 and 1951. Dallas Miller was president of the Greater Atlanta Chapter of the 9th and 10th Horse Cavalry Association and was, according to material provided by the company, “a nationally renowned re-enactor of the often forgotten Buffalo Soldier war heroes.” The company name, Buffalo Dallas, combines the military nickname and with the owner’s name.
“Dallas Miller was my uncle,” explained Terrance Miller, “But he was more than that. He was my closest friend and my business partner.” In 2005, the two formed a partnership and started looking for ways to expand. They decided there is a demand for quality merchandise for “the Divine Nine” as traditionally Black fraternities and sororities are collectively called, and started designing apparel and other items, including shoes, bags, caps, shirts, jackets, sweaters and customer-requested items.
The company’s first item, Terrance recalled, was a twill jacket. “We ordered 1,000 or them. It was a big risk; nobody was having organization-specific items made in that quantity. We sold 700 in three months and we were able to sell the rest at in a short period of time as word got around.
“I have an entrepreneurial spirit, and I’m willing to take risks—even taking a second mortgage on my house to cover big orders,” he said.
Dallas Miller died in 2009, and Terrance Miller, who holds a doctorate in education, decided to abandon his original career path and continue his uncle’s legacy. “It’s amazing to recall that we built this business in the middle of the worst economic slump this country has seen in decades. I think the fact that our customers are college graduates means many of them were not hit as hard by the economic downturn as many people were.”
Terrance said he believes that Buffalo Dallas is now the largest business of its type in the United States, “maybe the world,” he added. The company supplies approximately 315 retail stores as well as providing items for conventions and trade shows.
Representatives of the business are often present when the organizations they supply hold national and regional conventions and at homecoming events at Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Buffalo Dallas, which also takes online orders, now has six full-time employees and 12 subcontractors.
The business was doing so well that Terrance’s wife, Cassandra, last year gave up her full-time job to join the business.
“We design the items, then the manufacturing companies send samples for us to inspect to be sure the manufacturer has captured our vision. We choose every detail from the materials to the stripe placement to the buttons,” Cassandra explained.
Looking over samples sent by suppliers, she said, “I like the pom-pom on this cap, but the overall quality on this one is better.
The quality on the other one might be good enough for some, but not for us.
“When we send out an order it’s for hundreds, sometimes thousands, of items; every one has to be well made. We stand behind everything we send out,” she said. “We would never risk our relationships with our customers by skimping on quality.”
Even though husband and wife both pledged Greek organizations, both say they are as meticulous in creating items for other fraternities and sororities as they are for their own. “The rivalries are primarily among college students,” Terrance said. “Once we’ve graduated, we’re still loyal to our own organizations, but we respect the others and our shared legacy. We all serve a common purpose.” He said when he attends gatherings of fraternities other than his own, he doesn’t wear his fraternity’s apparel as a gesture of respect.
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