Part of the large gray building that dominates the top of Main Street where it meets Fair was once the shop of Nantucketer Rowland Hussey Macy… yes, that Macy, the man who started New York’s first modern department store.
Today the building houses a shop that is as much a tradition on Nantucket as Macy’s is in New York City—Murray’s Toggery Shop, which for the past 75 years has outfitted men, women, and children who live on and visit our island.
In 1945, Philip Murray purchased the store, and by the 1950s his son, Philip C., was helping him run it and expand it right to the corner of Main and Fair. In 2000, Philip’s son and daughter—John Murray and Trish Bridier—took over the business, keeping their father’s and grandfather’s spirit and dedication, moderizining the store with assistance from Trish’s husband Gilles, the shop’s GM.
This January, John and Trish retired and handed the reins to their four children: Lauren and Gregory Murray and Matthieu and Andrew Bridier. This new generation has, in just the first six months of a most challenging year, made significant updates to Murray’s Toggery Shop while keeping the store’s timeless style and Nantucket spirit intact.
John and Trish are both still involved on a consulting and part-time basis: always available to their children while enjoying gardening and hoping to travel when circumstances permit. “I miss my personal interactions with my staff and all the wonderful customers I’ve met over the years, many of whom are friends today,” said John, “I’d like to thank them all for supporting us over the years, and I hope to run into many of them in the near future.” Trish added “we’re delighted that our children want to continue the family tradition, including our Nantucket RedsTM —and they have great new ideas! It’s been a very smooth transition.”
Just as their parents did before them, Lauren, Gregory, Matt, and Andrew all grew up in the business. “I remember coming here as a young kid, hanging out and helping. Every summer I’d come here when school let out,” Lauren reminisced. “I started in ladies shoes, then moved into the men’s department… that’s where I met my fiancé [Nantucketer Connor Soverino, now the store’s general manager], when I was working at Murray’s after college.”
“I started working in the shop when I was 12 or 13… it was my summer job every year through college,” added Matt. “I’ve always loved the business—I have a real affinity for it. You have to love people to love retail. And I love finding the next interesting thing and placing it in the store… it’s like a puzzle to solve every season… we need to give you a good reason to change what’s in your closet and to wear it.”
Matt describes the styles sold in Murray’s Toggery Shop as having a “traditional Nantucket look with a twist—it’s a modern take on a traditional wardrobe, ‘tried and true’ as well as avant-garde.” Lauren adds “we offer classic, accessible fashion: coastal, preppy, with some higher end… We can go head-to-toe and outfit an entire family with clothing, shoes, and accessories.”
Murray’s new team is continuing the traditions of their parents and generations before, and that includes staying up-to-date with current trends. During a pandemic, that has included masks—they keep selling out of their Nantucket RedTM masks,“who would have predicted that?” said Lauren. And they are also offering more casual work-at-home attire “clothing that will help you present a professional image on Zoom but still be comfortable,” Matt explained, “We’re lucky: with Murray’s we can take fashion chances and show people things outside their comfort zone. Nothing is out-of-bounds on what could work in the store… our clientele is always changing, new people are always coming to Nantucket” and Murray’s Toggery Shop is changing with the times. “We have a common vision and all want to move the store forward,” Lauren added.
Lauren, Gregory, Matt, and Andrew, along with assistance from John and Trish, have made major changes to the Ladies Department of Murray’s Toggery Shop for 2020. The physical renovations they planned to finish in April were delayed due to the pandemic, but this June, they opened with a stunning new space. “We wanted the Ladies area to be more open, more modern, to better display the great products: classic and new,” said Lauren. The store still has an area devoted to their iconic Nantucket RedTM collection, but where that had been is now a Ladies Shoe Salon. The second floor now houses a special sale section, and Murray’s annual August Sale is happening now, offering sensational bargains.
The Murray family had a pleasant surprise during the physical renovations: “As the work was done, we discovered these wonderful beams with wooden pegs that were under the ceiling. They were beautiful, so we decided to keep them,” Lauren explained. One of their long-time employees (of which there are many!) in the Ladies Department commented: “I love all the light in the new space, and the beams were a definite bonus..Mr. Macy could have gazed upon these beams.”
In addition to physical renovation and reorganization, the new generation is bringing in new lines with “fun patterns and prints and lots of texture,” including Sail to Sable, Persifor, and J.Marie. For men, Holebrook sweaters have been popular this season, and Peter Millar fashions have long been a classic at Murray’s.
When asked what was next on the to-do list for this new generation of Murrays, they mentioned that they’ll keep developing their Nantucket RedsTM collection and continue to expand the items and fashions in the store. To keep the feel of one cohesive shop, they are “planning a future renovation of the Men’s side of the store, “I can’t wait to see what’s under the ceiling on that side,” Lauren commented. They are also in the final stages of a website overhaul so that they can stay connected with their customers when they aren’t on-island. “And we’re getting ready for the second half of 2020, whatever that might bring!” said Matt. Even with all the changes, planned and unplanned, that have happened so far during 2020, Lauren, Gregory, Matthieu, and Andrew all remain dedicated to continuing their family’s tradition of giving island residents and visitors “a personalized and friendly shopping experience…It’s an honor,” said Lauren “I’m proud of what my great-grandfather, grandfather, dad, and aunt have done…and I love Nantucket, living here year-round and being part of the community.”
“We are very excited to be hands-on and running the business. You don’t see many family department stores around any more… We’re very proud of what our family has done… and we are honored to be standing on the shoulders of previous generations,” Matt added.
It seems that the fourth generation running Murray’s Toggery Shop is honoring not only their family’s spirit, determination, and expertise, but also the long-ago motto of islander RH Macy and his team. As Nantucketer Margaret Getchell, Macy’s cousin and top executive once said: “Be everywhere, do everything, and never forget to astonish the customer.”
— Suzanne Daub