Most of this piece was published in The Pontiac Journal, when Murray’s Sporting Goods Ltd. was celebrating 40 years in business.
Owner Bill Murray, and his wife, Ann, have tried looking for a buyer, but they made the decision to retire. As the store continues with a clearance sale of their inventory, the business will be missed in town. It seemed appropriate to take a look back.
It was on September 4, 1971 when Bill Murray opened the doors to Murray’s. It was located on Main Street. “It was just this little front section of the building,” said Murray. “I had been working at Canadian Tire for a few years and I thought if I was going work in the retail business the rest of my life, I going to do it for myself.”
According to Bill’s brother, Bryan Murray, the idea for the store actually came about on a fishing trip.
Though people told Bill at the time it was a crazy idea, within two years the business grew to the point where he had to make a move. Bill landed on the corner of Victoria and Main Street, which today is known as Kojack’s restaurant.
“Two years after that we built this store,” he said of the current premises at 118 Victoria Avenue. When construction was complete, half of the building became an automotive shop that was run by his brother Barrie, who retired some years ago. Renovations were made and the sporting goods area was expanded.
“The biggest change from when I started business is you have to stock,” noted Bill, of his many years of running the store. “At one time, people were willing to wait a week for a baseball glove or whatever. Now, they don’t want to wait because if you don’t have what they are looking for they will just go buy it somewhere else.”
Through the years, the store carried hunting accessories, clothing, ammunition, guns and licenses. There is footwear, fishing and curling equipment and accessories, men’s and women clothing and even jewellery. Also offered was cresting and embroidery of products.
Bill revealed his secrets for a successful business: have the stock, good service, stand behind the products and most importantly talk to the customers. “The cottagers like to come in and buy because they appreciate the personal contact,” he said, as he took the time to chat with a woman and sell her a pair of shoes after she tried on several pairs.
“Working and owning a business takes a lot of hard work and dedication,” he continued. “I’ve put in a lot of hours and I don’t get much time for myself.” With the store open from Monday to Saturday, Bill said he probably only takes one week off a year plus a few days during the hunting season. He added that winding down and retiring from the store will be a tough decision to make but something he’ll have to decide at some point.
It’s a family-run business. Along with wife, Ann, there is daughter Tammy. Grandsons Jordan and Josh have helped out and Tammy’s husband, Allan, who works in the city, has chipped in once in awhile.
“I enjoy the work or I wouldn’t be doing it,” said Bill.