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Commentary: The Business

Pennsylvania Jeweler Reflects on Building a New Store During Pandemic

Pandemic threw up many obstacles along the way.

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Murphy Jewelers
mallory-murphy

Mallory Murphy

IT WAS CERTAINLY interesting timing to build and open a brand new store during a pandemic.

We started construction on our Lehigh Valley, Pa, store in October 2019, but it was halted around mid-March 2020 because our governor ordered non-essential construction to stop as part of his effort to combat the pandemic. He allowed construction to resume in May.

Of course, besides the shutdown, we had to combat shortages of building supplies and back-ordered supplies. There were delays for things we didn’t expect (like light bulbs).

We were supposed to open in May 2020, but with all of the shutdowns and delays, we opened on Sept. 8, 2020, instead. The pandemic also affected our ability to host a grand opening celebration, since we wanted to limit the number of customers at a time in the store. That was certainly a reversal from what you normally aim for during a grand opening — usually the more people, the better!

I’d be lying if I didn’t say it was extremely stressful to build a store in this type of environment, especially when our other established store locations were forced to shut down and we were not able to bring in their normal income. It’s an odd feeling to be building a large, beautiful store while living in a time when retail stores are being shut down.

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Through it all, I think we appreciate this store more than anything else we’ve ever accomplished because of all of the obstacles. We never gave up or threw the towel in, even after the passing of my dad. We had opportunities to walk away, but we persevered. I told everyone the day we opened the new store that a diamond is a piece of coal that does extremely well under pressure, and so it seems we did the same in building this store.

As far as COVID lessons learned in general, we realized that we can do just as much business (or more) being open fewer hours. We never anticipated nor wanted to cut our hours before COVID, but upon reopening with a smaller staff, it was the only option, and we were surprised to exceed our sales expectations.

We’ve also been reminded of how important our relationships with our team members are for the continuation of our family business. It was scary for many people to return to work last summer and be exposed to the public during a pandemic (and still is for some), but our team rallied behind us and rejoined us at our side.

Mallory Murphy represents the 4th generation of Murphy Jewelers, a family-owned company with three stores located in Pottsville, Hamburg, and Lehigh Valley, PA. She graduated from Elizabethtown College with a degree in entrepreneurship and is currently the co-owner and director of marketing at her family’s 108-year-old business.

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