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Last Updated on April 22, 2024

Inside: Millers Surplus in Tucson is part military surplus store/part museum. Chat with owner Don Sloane (a very active World War II veteran 😱) while you shop for fun stuff!

Shopping for military surplus or specialty camping gear can be hit-and-miss. After scouring tons of small shops and big box stores that carried what seemed like everything BUT what we were looking for, we were resigned that we’d have to shop online. Until we found a store that was in a class by itself.

Part surplus store, part museum, this place not only had what my husband wanted, the store came with its very own goodwill ambassador . . .

. . . and this guy totally made our day.

96-year old Don Sloane, owner of Millers Surplus in Tucson
Don Sloane, the owner and “good will ambassador” of Millers Surplus in Tucson

What is Millers Surplus in Tucson?

Established in 1951, Miller’s Surplus is not just a military surplus store; it’s a mini military museum and an integral part of Tucson’s history. Owned by Don Sloane, the business has been thriving for over seven decades, displaying the dedication and passion of its (cheerful) proprietor.

What started as a post-WW II shop selling military surplus has now transformed into an unmatched collection of military paraphernalia and all sorts of camping equipment.

Located in the Tucson’s Warehouse Arts District, Millers Surplus of Tucson is big, with an incredible selection. But that’s not all the store has.

What really sets it apart is its owner, Don Sloane. He’s a World War II veteran-and one of the happiest guys we’ve had the pleasure to meet. Just chatting with him brings a smile to your face 😊.

It’s like Millers Surplus has a secret weapon: it’s the military surplus store with a heart of gold 🤩.

History of Millers Surplus

To explore the history of Millers Surplus of Tucson, you need to consider the history of Don Sloane; the two are inextricably linked. So we need to go back a little . . .

Specifically, to 1945. World War II is in its waning days, but it’s not over yet. Spry young whippersnapper Don Sloane−all of 18 years old−joins the Army.

After training Don gets sent to Europe and spends 3 years there as an M.P., dealing with post-war issues. Even though the war was “officially” over, Don got shot . . . twice! 😱. (Proving that just because the treaties have been signed, life isn’t immediately hunky-dory.)

In 1948, with his military service completed, Don returns home to America. Don’s originally from Brooklyn, NY, so he attends New York University (NYU) on the G.I. Bill and studies business.

Collection of vintage military uniforms at Millers Surplus
Part of Don Sloane’s personal collection of military memorabilia.

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But, you may be asking, what does all of this have to do with Tucson?

The answer: asthma. (Not for Don himself, but for a family member.) The family moved out to Tucson for the warm, dry, and relatively pollen-free air.

So it’s 1951. Don Sloane, World War II Vet and NYU alum finds himself in Tucson, Arizona at the ripe old age of 24. What’s a guy to do?

Don looks around for a business to buy and settles on Miller’s Surplus. He understands business, and he KNOWS the military, so it’s a natural fit.

Military tactical gear and clothing at Millers Surplus in Tucson
Plenty of military surplus clothing tactical gear (vintage uniforms on display on wall).

Originally known as Miller’s Army Surplus Exchange, the business was located on Congress St. in downtown Tucson. In the early 50s the Army had a whole lotta surplus stuff. Fortunately, Don understood it all, so he was happy to meet his customers’ needs with military gear.

The company moved to it’s current location on 6th Ave. in 1966. (Fun fact: the building is a former car dealership that sold every GM brand except Chevrolet.)

And 70+ years later Don Sloane−and Millers Surplus−is still making customers happy.

What makes this Military Surplus Store unique?

In a word: Don Sloane. (well, okay, that’s 2 words.) But there are 3 reasons Don makes this store unique.

1. A Mini Military Museum

First, Don doesn’t only sell military clothing and gear, he collects it. And he has it on display in the store.

Walking around Miller’s Surplus is like being in a mini-museum. Vintage uniforms and military artifacts line the walls and shelves above the modern-day goods for sale.

Vintage motorcycle on display at Millers Surplus-Military Surplus store in Tucson
Be sure to look for the vintage motorcycle on display at Millers Surplus in Tucson

As you browse the store, be sure to look up (and in all the nooks and crannies). You’ll find a whole range of military relics, ranging from antique military patches, pins, and medals, to unique, vintage items like gas masks, military bags, and helmets. There’s even a vintage military motorcycle! 🏍️

2. A Vast−and Varied−Selection of Military Gear & Clothing (and more!)

A walk down the store’s aisles will reveal the store’s specialization in military items, stockpiling everything from authentic uniforms of the past and present to finely crafted insignia and hard-to-find military gear.

SeaBees shirts on display at Millers Surplus Tucson
Navy “SeaBees” shirt on display amid contemporary bucket hats and vintage flags

Don respects all branches of service, and carries supplies and goods related to some of the more unique military functions, such as the Navy’s Construction Battalion, familiarly known as the “SeaBees.” 🐝

My husband was looking for a US Coast Guard t-shirt, to honor his dad, who had been a veteran “Coastie.” Sure enough, Don had a collection of Coast Guard shirts available in all sizes.

Keeping pace with current trends, Don also stocks a wide variety of camping gear and accessories (including an awesome selection of enameled coffee pots that look like they’d be right at home on a Grand Canyon campout.)

3. Don Sloane, Proprietor & Good-Will Ambassador 😊

Don Sloane or Millers Surplus, working in the store

All of the above make a trip to Millers Surplus worthwhile, especially if you’re looking for military or camping gear.

But the most interesting−and happiest−reason to visit Miller’s Surplus in Tucson is for Don Sloane himself.

Where else will you have a chance to chat with a World War II veteran? (Not to mention one who still works every day!)

You’ll find Don walking around the store, chatting with customers, making sure they’re finding what they’re looking for.

And he’s always smiling 😊.

When we asked him about his happy disposition, he told us, “my mother told me, ‘every time you smile, you extend your life by the tiniest little bit.’ So I smile as often as I can. It keeps me active.”

It must be working . . . Don is 96-years . . . young.

The Military Surplus Store worth a Special Trip

Whether you’re an ardent military enthusiast, lover of antiques, or simply a curious visitor, a visit to Miller’s Surplus promises a journey back in time, an essence of the past encapsulated in the present.

It’s one of the truly unique things to do in Tucson.

And, after meeting Don Sloane, I dare you not to smile yourself. 😊

Posing with Don Sloane, owner of Millers Surplus military surplus store
C’mon, doesn’t this guy make you smile?!

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