A Family Tradition
By Christine Rein, Contributor
December / January 2002
The Murphy family business, which originated in 1939 with Margaret Murphy of Ballybofey, Co. Donegal, selling hand-embroidered linen, is now a major retailer on the world-wide web with over 50 items ranging from hand-knit Aran sweaters to a baby’s Irish rugby jersey on offer.
Margaret’s two grandsons, Paul (42) and Conor (32) Murphy, have brought the company into the 21st century by launching MurphyofIreland.com, with the help of John Alexander, an Irish American technical expert based in California.
Conor is based in the company’s New York office and is marketing the business in the U.S. Paul runs the shop and back office stock and shipping operations from Murphy of Ireland’s traditional base in Ballybofey.
Both brothers believe in the personal touch and in an age of impersonal electronic phone systems, voice mail and generalized electronic messaging, Murphy of Ireland is a breath of fresh air. Each order goes out with a handwritten thank you note and a Donegal tourism brochure.
“You wouldn’t believe how many people have taken the time to actually write us return thank you notes,” says the surprised Conor. “We’ve probably spoken to more than half of them for one reason or another and of course we get to hear great stories — perhaps about their Irish ancestry or how they’re replacing a family heirloom like a linen christening robe. The other surprising thing is that while at least 85 percent of our customers are American, many of them are not Irish at all.”
Taking a long-term view of the business, Paul is hopeful that one of his four daughters will follow him into the business and it will revert back to female ownership in the generation to come. ♦