The history of Murray's Jewelers plays out through several generations, a few different locations, and some changes in the business' focus that have kept it flourishing even through such difficult times as the Depression. Some things have stayed the same however, such as the store's loyalty to Muncie, Indiana,and our concern for customer service and satisfaction. Those will continue to be very high priorities as Murray's moves through its second century in business.
James E. Murray
As you've probably already noticed, all of this started in the year 1885... After serving a five year apprenticeship in watch repair in Cass County, Indiana, James E. Murray moved his family to Muncie. In their new home James and his wife Eva had six children, two of whom would eventually join their father in the family business. After getting settled in Muncie, James bought into a unique partnership between the Harriott Jewelry Co. and a harness shop. James became the watchmaker for the store and was quite successful because he found that while people were waiting for their horse to be harnessed they had just enough time to have their watch examined and for minor repairs to be made. The business went well enough that James was able to buy out Harriott in 1910 and run the store with his sons Roscoe and Robert O. Murray. In 1922, to revive the business, James and Robert together bought the L. E. Fisher Jewelry Store in the Columbia Theatre Building on Walnut St., just a block down from their previous location. The store did not remain at that site for long though.
November, 1924 - James E. Murray and his son Robert O. Murray on one of the last days that Murray's Jewelers was housed in the Columbia Theater Building, the business' second location. The building still stands on Walnut St. in downtown Muncie, but Murray's has moved from this small 2nd floor room and now resides in a larger and more convenient space only one block away.
Another purchase was made by James and Robert which caused the business to move again. They bought the Scott Jewelry Store in 1924 and moved their business into Scott's space on the 2nd floor of the Johnson Building, located at the corner of Walnut and Charles Streets. The Johnson Building was the home of Murray's Jewelers for the next 48 years and James continued in the business there until his death in 1929, at which time Robert took over the family business. Robert and his first wife had two sons: Robert Edward, who worked at Murray's for a short time after World War II, and Donald Stephenson, who eventually became the store's proprietor after his father. During the war, both brothers served in the U.S. Navy and then returned to Muncie after their tours were complete. Throughout the jewelry store's Johnson Building era there were many various family members who were employed at Murray's: Roscoe and Robert; Ruth Murray,Robert's second wife; Barbara Green, Robert's niece; Robert Edward; Donald and his wife Darlene; and even the fourth generation, Todd and Steve. Upon returning from the war, Donald served a two year watchmaking apprenticeship and then began attending Elgin Watchmakers College in Illinois, graduating inJuly, 1948.
Robert O. Murray
Throughout the 1950's he and his wife Darlene became more and more involved in the store, eventually forming a partnership with Robert and then running the store after his retirement. Don and Darlene had three sons--Ronald, Steven, and Todd--two of whom were interested in being the fourth generation of Murray jewelers. By the end of the 1960's, with both Steve and Todd working for the store and changes like the indoor mall invading the business world, Don realized that Murray's had to make a move to ground-level if it hoped to survive. So in 1972 he secured the space that Murray's Jewelers occupies now, giving the business its first traditional storefront in 87 years. Sadly, Robert Murray passed away that same year.
By this time Steve and Todd had both graduated from Bowman Technical School, a watchmaking college in Lancaster,Pennsylvania, and were working full time at the jewelry store. Although business was fine, the store had never needed to support three Murray families and additional employees before. To alleviate some of the financial strain on the business,Todd and Steve decided to try something that would radically alter the face and focus of Murray's Jewelers. Steve attended Gem City College in Illinois,
May 29, 1949 - Ruth Murray, Robert O. Murray, Roscoe Murray, and Barbara Green inside Murray's Jewelers on the 2nd floor of the Johnson Building. The store expanded two times while it was in this location, but eventually a move to ground level was still necessary to make the store more accessible. This photograph was taken fewer than three months before Roscoe passed away while working at his watchbench.
and then worked at the A. Sauer Co. in Cincinnati to learn more about stone setting and goldsmithing while Todd took lessons in the Lost Wax process of jewelry casting. They then purchased brand new equipment so that they could begin manufacturing their own custom designed jewelry. Since then, the success of their hand-made jewelry has surpassed their greatest expectations and carried Murray's Jewelers well past its 100th year of business. After the store's move to Charles St., the continued leadership of Donald and the creativity of Steve and Todd developed enough business that Murray's again expanded two times.
For a short period in the early 80's, Donald and Darlene's oldest son, Ronald, also worked at the jewelry store as its first clockmaker. In 1986, one year after the store's centennial, Todd and Steve purchased the Freund Building, which houses Murray's Jewelers, assuring that the business will always have a home within two blocks of its original location. Then in 1990, the Murray's continued the family tradition when Donald and Darlene sold the business to their two sons and Donald retired. Steve and Todd have been successful in serving customers across the nation with their unique in-house manufacturing and service, and they hope that the next generation will do just as well. Since 1999 Todd's oldest son, Ryan, has been working full time as a jewelry designer and bench jeweler.
Donald S. Murray
James, his younger son, after studying at the Gemological Institute of America came to work full time for the family in 2001. Darlene, who has worked at the store since the 1940's and has been the head bookkeeper since the 60's, is a strong continuing influence on the operations of the business. Janie Murray, Todd's wife, is now assistant bookkeeper to Darlene and becomes more involved in the business each year. As the fifth generation of Murrays enter the business, our goal is to find new and creative ways to build upon our success in custom manufacturing, such as this digital home on the World Wide Web and the introduction of computer aided design software. Donald Murray passed away in February of 1998 and he is missed greatly, but he left with the knowledge that Murray's Jewelers will continue on for some time using the heritage that he and the generations before him labored to build.
c. 1913 - A view of the Freund Building which was purchased by Steve and Todd Murray in 1986.Steve and Todd Murray in 2003 refurbished the first floor façade to its original 1903 appearance.