You know the story. The one where two brothers started a store, got into a dispute and split with one flip-flopping the name. But then why is one named Mills and the other Blain's?

There was no fight. No split and no turmoil.

Just a lot of incredible timing.

"It has got to be one of the biggest myths in the Midwest," said Blain's company spokeswoman Renee Tarnutzer.

When Bert and Claude Blain started Farm & Fleet in Janesville in 1955, family friends Stewart C. Mills Sr. and his twin sons, Stewart C. Mills Jr. and Henry C. Mills II, asked if they could reverse the name and use it for a store they were starting in Brainerd, Minn.

Both families use the same buying group but don't operate stores in the same markets and likely never will, said Jane Blain Gilbertson, co-owner and executive vice president of Blain Supply, based in Janesville.

Blain's has 34 stores in Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa with all but one of its Wisconsin stores (Rice Lake) in the southern third of the state.

Mills, based in Appleton, has 31 stores in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and North Dakota.

Its 18 stores are in the eastern and central part of the state with stores also in Hudson and Menomonie in the western part of Wisconsin.

One of Mills stores is in Blaine, Minn.

"You can understand why people are confused," said Blain Gilbertson, Bert Blain's daughter.


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