Logan County History: G.C. Murphy Company


By: Mary E. Mortimer

In July 1917, the G.C. Murphy Co. offered the best bid of $5,200 for all five bankrupt C.D. Hartzell Co. stores, located in Troy, Tippecanoe City, St. Mary’s, Greenville, and Bellefontaine. At that time, Murphy’s operated thirty-two stores in Ohio, Indiana, and other states. After their purchase, the Hartzell store was reopened as G.C. Murphy, a variety of “five and dime stores”.

In March of 1920, Murphy purchased the P.V. Savage Hardware storeroom located next door and added $3,500 in improvements. I.C. Arnett, store manager, announced they would be selling a much higher class of merchandise at their “5 to 25 cent store.”

In September of 1939, Murphy’s added more floor space and remodeled the store. Store manager A.A. Alpermann reported “wide, spacious aisles, modern lighting equipment, many display windows, four main entrances, all to make shopping a pleasure in the enlarged Murphy store.”

By March of 1956, the G.C. Murphy store was ready to expand again. Store manager R.A. “Dutch” Wilde stated, “The additional space will enable us to expand the lines of merchandise previously carried and provide adequate display space for a new home furnishings department and recently added lines of occasional furniture and articles for outdoor living. The remodeling of the Bellefontaine store is in keeping with the Murphy company’s overall program of remodeling present locations, as well as the opening of new stores in states where it has never operated before. At the present time, new stores are contemplated in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, and North Carolina. In 1955, the nationwide sales volume of the GC Murphy Co. was $196,423,090.00, which represents an increase of 7.8% over 1954.”

With the purchase of more floor space, they then occupied 126-132 S. Main St. with a total square footage of 15,250 feet. To enlarge their store, they constructed a new building at the rear of the store with a 67-foot frontage on Canby St. and with a depth of 87 feet. A portion of the new addition was devoted to selling shrubs, flowers, fertilizer, seeds, and other planting supplies. They also sold patio furniture, large toys, and other seasonal items. They also installed a modern 20-stool snack bar equipped with stainless steel fixtures. The cost of the improvements was in excess of $150,000.

In 1978, G.C. Murphy saw the need to expand once again with a new building in the Fontaine Plaza on S. Main St. The new Murphy Mart store grand opening was held on February 21, 1979. The 40,975 square foot store featured a sporting goods department that featured one of the most complete lines in the area. The Home Improvement Department encompassed 1,750 square feet and was designed for “do-it-yourselfers” with home repair products and decorative items.

A restaurant with a seating capacity of 50 persons was located in the front of the store. Their menu included a wide variety of breakfast, luncheon, and dinner entrees. They also served snacks, sandwiches, hot dogs, hoagies, sodas, sundaes, desserts, and soft drinks. The store employed over 50 people.

In May 1982, the original G.C. Murphy store at 126 S. Main St. was converted to a Bargain World store. The snack bar remained open, but “they no longer sold candy or cigarettes or any items which required employee attention at any time.” In addition to changing the store name, merchandise was displayed on tables in the center area with staple lines located around the salesroom perimeter. Family Pharmacy expanded into the available space on the north side of the store.

In April 1985, Ames Department Store bought the G.C. Murphy store in the Fontaine Plaza. They were in business until they were subject to a takeover in 1989 and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The Ames Department Store closed in September 1990.

Bargain World closed in December 1985. The store is now known as Main Street Marketplace.

Visit the Logan County History Center to learn more interesting aspects of Logan County history.

The History Center is open for tours Wednesday – Sunday from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm.