The Pennsylvania State University
Cover for the book For the Love of Murphy's

For the Love of Murphy's

The Behind-the-Counter Story of a Great American Retailer Jason Togyer
  • Copyright: 2008
  • Dimensions: 8.5 x 10.5
  • Page Count: 292 pages
  • Illustrations: 72 illustrations
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-271-03370-9
  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-271-03371-6
  • Series Name: Keystone Books®

Winner of a 2009 AAUP Book Jacket Award

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“As pointed out in the book’s introduction, superstores such as Target and Wal-Mart run the roost now. But thanks to For the Love of Murphy’s—partially compiled from interviews with some one-time employees—the story and legacy of yet another of the region’s great institutions will not be lost.”
For the Love of Murphy’s is an excellent account of the history of a great five-and-ten. Jason Togyer has truly captured the ‘behind-the-counter’ view of an innovative retail organization.

“The G. C. Murphy Company is very special to me. My management style and work ethic grew from the experience and training I acquired over a sixteen-year period as a G. C. Murphy employee. I worked as a part-time stock boy in the early 1950s and then spent five years full time in the management training program, working in seven different stores. After serving in the Marine Corps, I returned part time to the G. C. Murphy Company—and while attending Penn State University, I worked in the downtown State College store.

“I highly recommend For the Love of Murphy’s to anyone who has had the experience of working in a five-and-ten retail store. Students of marketing management and merchandising, young entrepreneurs, and small-business owners will also gain immensely from the wealth of information in this book.”
“I grew up with the G. C. Murphy Company. My grandfather, dad, and uncle all worked as electricians and traveled all over the country to stores, and I later became a secretary at the G. C. Murphy Company ‘home office.’

Going to Store No. 12 in Downtown Pittsburgh was a real treat! Ah, those wooden plank floors, the lunch counter, the bulk candy counter. . . . I now work in the executive offices of PNC Bank in Pittsburgh and every time I go past that Murphy store now I could cry—knowing what it used to be and seeing what it has become.

All of us old ex-Murphyites who lost our jobs because of the Ames takeover say we’d still be there if Murphy’s was! We’d never have left—what a great job we had!”

Five-and-ten stores were immensely popular during the middle of the twentieth century, selling cheap, dependable goods to people from all walks of life. Now the product of a bygone era, these stores were revolutionary in their time, but few today appreciate how important they were in creating our present-day consumer culture. In this sensitive yet honest look at one of the best-known chains of five-and-tens, Jason Togyer traces the history of the G. C. Murphy Company, headquartered in McKeesport, Pennsylvania.

Though not the largest chain, nor the first, Murphy’s is remembered today as a commercial trailblazer—a corporation run with honesty and integrity, and, at its peak, a retailer whose more than five hundred stores managed to outsell those of the giant F. W. Woolworth Company by a factor of three to one. Making extensive use of both the company archives and anecdotes from former employees and customers, McKeesport native Togyer re-creates with outstanding detail the world in which the G. C. Murphy Company emerged; its survival and growth during the Great Depression; its response to a strained economy during World War II; its fight against rapidly expanding competitors, such as Kmart; its struggle and recovery in the 1970s; and its unsuccessful battle to stave off Wall Street raiders in the 1980s.

Though modern-day shoppers may not know the Murphy name, they know its legacy. From its adventurous selling tactics to its strict code of corporate ethics, the G. C. Murphy Company should be remembered not as a dusty relic, but as a pioneer in the American business world.

Jason Togyer is managing editor of The Link, the magazine of Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Computer Science.

Contents

List of Illustrations

Foreword

Preface and Acknowledgments

1. Bethel Park, 1970

2. A Revolution in Retailing

3. The Macy’s of Appalachia

4. Can You Spare a Dime?

5. The Murphy Girls

6. At War at Home and Abroad

7 Meals at Murphy’s

8. The Fabulous Fifties

9. The Pride of the Chain

10. McKeesport Yankees in Dixieland

11. Determination and Diversion

12. Happy Holidays

13. Home Runs and a Few Errors

14. Triumph and Trial

15. Aftermath and Legacy

Notes on Sources

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