CATTARAUGUS - Julie Murphy is busy these days planning the grand opening of Murphy's Wine and Gourmet on Main Street in Cattaraugus. Her mission, as she explains it, is to help people develop a completely new mind-set about the store. With her infectious enthusiasm and creativity, she's perfectly suited to the task.
Julie could easily have called this event a "re-opening." After all, the store first opened in 1999 and ran through 2005. In fact, in some ways, it never closed, since Julie manned it on a temporary basis each Christmas season. Also, their dressing line was available at the Corner Drug Store.
However, the original concept is undergoing some big changes, the most obvious of which is the addition of alcoholic beverages to the inventory. Julie, as sole owner of the reborn enterprise, feels this is a natural transition, given that the shop dedicates itself to food and good eating.
A Murphy staffer, Dennis Baker, shows off one the Johnson Estate wines which Murphy’s Wine and Gourmet now feature.
Entrepreneur Julie Murphy gives two of her four children, Callista, left, and Bridget, a preview of the new candy display at Murphy’s Wine and Gourmet. It’s not easy convincing the kids such tempting goodies as the chocolate or caramel-covered marshmallow shish-kabobs weren’t purchased just for them.
In the newly updated store, Johnson Estate wines hold a prominent place on the shelves. "We already carry twenty types of Johnson wines," says Julie, "and they're constantly expanding their inventory. We plan to carry seasonal wines, too, such as ice wines and spiced."
Beer is also available, specifically several distinctive labels from the nearby Ellicottville Brewery. Others, from the Southern Tier Brewery (located in Lakewood, N.Y.) will soon be added.
Another display showcases the exclusive gins, whiskeys and flavored vodkas privately produced by Finger Lakes Distilling.
Julie said she makes every effort to obtain both the spirits and the food products as locally as possible. Take, for instance, Ulinger's East Otto-based maple syrup, which shares a section with various maple-enhanced mixes, including, naturally, one for pancakes.
Obviously, Murphy's Gourmet Food Products will hold a place of honor at the store. Customers who knew and loved them, may rest assured their favorites will be on hand, along with some new taste treats dreamed up by Chef Tim. The only difference? These old faithfuls now bear the Brick Village label, as that's the name the Murphys eventually chose for their culinary creations. Appropriate, yes?
One of Murphy's products that proved especially addicting to most Cattaraugus residents was their enticing line of salad dressings. Well, the creamy bacon and others are back, but with even more additions to the roster. And the famous Murphy cheese ball? Well, it's back, too, still holding first place in the lineup of special cheesy treats.
As everyone knows, a touch of sweet puts the perfect finish to any meal. To satisfy that craving, Julie traveled the countryside, finally discovering an outfit in Batavia called Palace Sweets, who turn out their own hand-made chocolates. Truffles, anyone?
The idea of bringing "Murphy's" back to life has become Julie's mission. "Our families have roots that go 'way back in Cattaraugus history," she explains, "and it hurts me to see businesses closing here, especially when one's our own."
For those who don't know the story, Julie's the granddaughter of Hobart Setter. Her husband, Patrick, is the grandson of Mrs. Bernice Rich Murphy, a longtime Cattaraugus postmistress. The Rich family cleared a farm in Skinner Hollow and was one of the first to settle in the area. A bit later, the Setters came along and busied themselves establishing Setter Brothers, which became one of the village's leading industries for many years.
The two Murphy brothers, Tim and Patrick, and their wives, Trish and Julie started up Murphy's Gourmet about eleven years ago. As a tribute to their grandmother, Bernice, they renovated her old post office building to house their new enterprise. Although the shop got off to a good start, the brothers found themselves too deeply involved in other enterprises to give it their full attention. In a few years, to the regret of all, it closed its doors.
"Also," muses Julie, "I'm not sure we had exactly the right mix for our customers--and we were pretty bad at letting people know we were here." She intends to rectify that situation.
First of all, she's established regular hours, five days a week, Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.; Friday, 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.; and Saturday, 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. As a busy mom of four, she knew she'd need help at the store, and she's convinced Melinda Rogan and Dennis Baker to give her a hand.
To add interest and build customer loyalty, Julie is considering a number of promotions, including drawings to be held at 1:00 p.m. each Saturday. She explained, "People would get an entry ticket for every $10.00 worth of merchandise they buy that week."
And to capitalize on people's affinity for the lovely diversions of food, wine and chocolate, the shop will offer exclusive, custom-made gift baskets. "You can build your own," says Julie, "or we'll build them for you--and we'll ship them anywhere for any occasion." She adds that she hopes to interest businesses in the idea of corporate gift baskets.
This young entrepreneur is fairly bursting with ideas. "Although," she admits, "sometimes, when I think too hard about it all, it gets a little scary."
Then the big smile flashes back on, and she turns toward a half-done display, fussing to get it "just so." Her natural optimism and sense of humor surge back, buoying her as she prepares for September's grand opening. "By that time all our stock should be in place," she says, "and we'll be ready to show it off!"
Meanwhile, the store is open for business, even as Julie and her staff get ready for the big event. "You needn't wait for the grand opening," she says, "to start shopping at Murphy's Wine and Gourmet."