Did Santa and G.C. Murphy have a Merger?
Remember when the G.C. Murphy store was open downtown on the north side of National Avenue? It was a really neat store. The familiar sound of the creaky wooden floors was pleasant, kind of soothing. The aroma of the roasting nuts, which could be smelled at least a block away, was absolutely wonderful. It almost made you feel like you were going home.
And you could find about anything you needed there. It was sort of an early, smaller version of Wal-Mart. It was especially popular at Christmas time. Santa must have sent his elves there to finish up the gift lists when they ran out of time to make everything before the big day.
But things change. Brazil’s Murphy store closed years ago. Other stores opened but could never really replace the feel and fun of Murphy’s. I assumed Santa just hired more elves to get his work done in a timely manner.
To my surprise and delight though, I found out that Santa just merged with a store in a different town. The old G.C. Murphy store in Rockville, Indiana, was bought by Gary and Mary Nicola 26 years ago. His dad ran a five and dime store when Gary was a child.
“When I was just seven my mom asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up,” Gary said. “I told her I wanted to own a five and dime store and live above it. She asked why and I said because if I ever get bored there’s always something to do in the store.”
The words G.C. Murphy remained embedded on the building’s store-front but when he bought it, Gary changed the name to G and M Variety. Tile covered the old creaky wooden floors and the roasting nuts department had been taken out before Gary purchased the store. Asked if he ever considered putting back the roasted nuts he said he’d looked in to it. Government regulations made it unfeasible. If you’re keeping score that would be Uncle Sam 1, Santa 0. Bummer.
But this store has everything else the Murphy store had and a whole lot more. They have more than 13,000 items. Many of those are unusual, unique things you won’t find anywhere else around here.
The number one selling candy bar is Valomilk. That’s a two in a pack milk chocolate circular bar with a creamy marshmallow center. They also have Zagnut bars and candy cigarettes. At first Gary was concerned about the candy cigarettes for fear it might encourage kids to smoke. But he said kids are not interested in them at all. It’s mostly older people wanting them for gifts to give their friends as a trip down memory lane.
G. and M. Variety carries an extensive line of Melissa & Doug toys. They also normally stock more than 300 different puzzles. And they have the largest selection of decorative yard flags in Parke County.
“We sell Sloggers,” Gary added. “That’s a shoe made in America. They have a great insole and support. They’re good for yard work, campers and general everyday work. We discount them and they go quickly.”
One of the stores best offerings is the flower department. The store employees will make baskets, saddles and other things or people can buy individual flowers and make their own arrangements.
Here’s just a few of the things this store sells: place mats, hand towels, sewing notions, yarn-all colors, greeting cards, candles, paper supplies, sun jigglers, windsocks, ceramic animals and yard decorations, flashlights, jewelry, motion activated purse lights, fold up paper fans, insect repellant and bug spray, coupon organizers, make-up, health and beauty aids, Bazooka gum, clothes, and bulk candy which can be bought by the piece such as root beer barrels.
When Gary talks about his store you can tell it’s not just a job to him. You can see the passion in his eyes and he exudes warmth and friendliness. The store is a happy place to be. And the employees are pleasant and cheerful too.
Aleta Thomas was working the cash register when I was there. I asked her what her job was. “I run the show,” she laughed. Customers patiently waited in line to be checked out. No one seemed to be in a hurry. You can’t help but look around as you wait. There’s just so much there and so many odd, different things. So even while waiting in line, you’re not bored.
“Eighty percent of inventory turnover is on 20 percent of our products,” Gary explained. “The other 80 percent of products is what makes this store successful. That’s what attracts customers. One lady comes in to buy a particular item just once a month but we keep that item in stock for her. She buys other things when she’s here but she comes for that one item. She can’t find it anywhere else. The big thing is Customer loyalty. They’re very supportive.
“Our biggest time is during Covered Bridge Festival,” Gary continued. “They come from all over the country. Many people come here every year because you don’t see too many dime stores anymore.”
Covered bridge may be their biggest time but I guarantee you I’ll be going back there in December. That’s the biggest stocking stuffer place I’ve ever seen. I don’t think Santa needs to worry, though. There’s enough stuff there for everybody.
Keep smiling. Linda Messmer may be reached at 812-448-8725.