Boutique owner finds the fun in business
Dec 03, 2018 10:29AM
By J. Chambless
Ashley Murphy opened her Greenville store, Blythe, in September.
By John Chambless
Since September, Ashley Murphy has been
experiencing all that comes with opening her own business. “It's
been so much fun,” she said brightly. “And absolutely
Murphy is the founder and owner of Blythe, a clothing and accessories boutique she opened in the Powder Mill Square shopping center in Greenville. The store carries her middle name, and her personal imprint is literally everywhere. Her business card notes that her job title is “Girl boss.”
A Delaware native, Murphy went through Ursuline and Archmere Academy, “and I always thought I'd be a kindergarten teacher,” she said. But in her teens, she had a strong interest in fashion and worked in several stores – Flirt Boutique, Lucky Brand, Peter Kate, and Two Sisters, a children's store that was in the space now occupied by Blythe.
“I had looked for a location in Hockessin, and I love that town so much, but I knew the customers from this space so well. The opportunity came up and I thought it would be so much fun to do. Finally, I thought that if I didn't do it now, I never would,” she recalled.
It was a seven-month process from deciding to take the leap to actually opening the door of the store. There was some work to be done to reconfigure the space, and Murphy and her boyfriend moved a wall and built a bathroom, she noted proudly. “I was here until 10:30 at night, putting in the new floor with him,” she said.
The store is next door to a Starbucks, so it gets plenty of traffic and visibility. “I want people to walk in here and feel comfortable, like they're walking into my house,” Murphy said. “Even if they're not buying something, I want them to feel OK to just hang out.”
Along those lines, there's a turntable and basket of albums near the dressing room, and customers are invited to put on a record of their choice while they're browsing. The records – from the Rolling Stones to Justin Bieber – and record player are Murphy's. “One of the things about having it, though, is going over to flip the record every five songs,” she said.
There's a neon Blythe sign on the back wall that Murphy had made for the store, and everything she sells – from jackets and jeans to jewelry – is individually selected. “There's a lot of my personal style in the store. People keep telling me to stick with my gut. I'm taking a little bit of a risk with some things, but I want a mother and a daughter to be able to walk in and both find something,” she said. “I didn't want to put an age on my clothes or my store.”
She found all of her vendors by searching Instragram, she said, and has built personal relationships with the businesses she buys from. “As much as I hate social media, I really owe it for my business,” she said.
The maker of a line of T-shirts she sells gives food to children in underserved communities, and the nail polish sold in Blythe is all vegan, and 20 percent of the sales price goes to the National Organization for Women. Every purchase is wrapped in paper and sealed with a sticker that reads, “Always Be Kind.”
It's that kind of top-to-bottom attention to detail that excites Murphy about coming to work every day. And she is there every single day, although she has recently added one store helper, Lily Stevens.
“I'm so excited when someone walks through that door,” Murphy said. “I wanted a good vibe in my store. Maybe sometimes I overdo it because I'm so excited they've come in. I may come off as a little shy, but once you get to know me, I'm pretty down to earth and a little crazy,” she said, smiling.
The store has built some momentum, even so early on. “In the beginning, I was begging people to let me carry their products, and now I have to turn people away,” she said. That's a good sign, and Murphy is bracing for the craziest time of the year in retail – the Christmas rush.
“I've definitely worked in stores during Christmas before,” she said, “but I used to be able to go home and leave it all behind me. This is the first time it's my baby.”
She has prepared well ahead of time, and has already ordered merchandise for next summer. The store is a constant concern, she said, “and after being here all day, I don't sleep much. I plan where I'm moving things in my sleep.”
She has built up warm relationships with customers she got to know in her other retail jobs, “and they believe in me,” she said. “And my family has been here to help me since day one.”
Murphy admitted that people are surprised that she is running her own store, especially since she appears very young. “People think I'm too young, until they find out how old I really am,” she said, laughing. “I've been picking out the gray hairs that have come along in the last four months, but it's all good.”
While Blythe is just starting out, Murphy thought for a moment when asked where she would like to take the store in the coming years. “I could expand, I suppose, but I just love this space,” she said. “Sometimes it's this kind of small shop that people love. I can't think about the future because I'm just thinking about this store and how I can make it better.”
Blythe is at 3828 Kennett Pike, Greenville, Del., in Powder Mill Square. Call 302-274-2292 or visit www.facebook.com/blythegreenville.
To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, email [email protected].