Truth be told I used to be scared of Joyce Murray of Murray’s Furniture & Flea Market. She isn’t a tall foreboding woman, but there is a driving force behind her. Perhaps it is because she had dreams of becoming a police woman that she projects such authority. Joyce says she likes figuring things out, so maybe she had me all figured out at the word “go”.
I first met her in 1981 when I moved here and haunted her former location on Bridge Street in the old Leslie Building like flies to honey. Her store had a bit of everything, and I loved going to the second floor and examining every piece she had. Each treasure I bought from her was special to me, and some pieces I still have today. Murray’s Furniture was the first time I had seen a pressed back chair commode. She had me at hello after that.
I don’t see her a lot these days, but when I do I could listen to her for hours. Last week when I popped into the store we talked for a spell around the pickle barrel as they say. When she opened the Sears dealer store in Carleton Place Joyce was quote as saying,
“We’ve come up with a winning formula for consumers in Carleton Place,” says Murray, “by combining the national resources of Sears with the local service of your neighbour – truly the best of both worlds in terms of customer service.”
And that my friends pretty well sums up Joyce Murray- she may be a business person in Carleton Place but she is first and foremost your neighbour. She opened her first store on Lake Ave West where The Olde Towne Bakery is now situated because of a hobby she and her daughters did together.
They accumulated so much stuff they got from sales and auctions they needed a place to store it, and that is how Murray’s Furniture began. It was also important to Joyce that that all aspects of her life should be close by. As a single parent she wanted to make sure the kids were alright.
Soon they moved to the Leslie building and Murray’s became known as the spot to shop if you wanted something different. She admits she was thinking about the Old Canadian Tire Building on Beckwith at one point as she felt things might be better suited to one floor. But, she was personally advised not to do it because of environmental concerns, and was glad she didn’t.
I wrote a story about the old Leslie building in my book Titling the Kilt and Joyce confirms not only did she have the best selection of collectibles around but there were ghosts that resided on the second floor where they used to keep the coffins in former years. Joyce told me tales of missing scissors and shadows seen on the closed circuit TV that could not be explained. But she paid them no mind, as they weren’t evil spirits because they always made sure to return the things they “borrowed”.
Joyce opened a 4,000 square foot Sears store later on and housed a wide selection of major appliances, mattresses, electronics, fitness and seasonal items. She has old school determination and ethics and has always worked hard, but does she regret opening Sears? Maybe, but that never stopped her from being that good neighbour.
It’s hard to drag things out of Joyce, but I managed to find out a few things she has done. She was one of the first foundation bricks of the Lanark Food Bank and ran it out of her living room as well as being involved at Lanark Interval House. She told me a story of selling a mattress to a woman who couldn’t pay right away but yet Joyce delivered her bed immediately when she found out the woman was sleeping on the floor. We need to remember when one neighbour helps another, we strengthen our community, and I would say Joyce has done more than her share.
If you look at Murray’s Flea Market Facebook page you will find out that with 52 vendors you sure as heck are going to find something special there. Her two daughters Shannon and Victoria work with her, and it’s definitely all about family. She found out later in life that her Father who died when she was 4 was one of the Home Children that came from Scotland. Even if Sears did not give her much joy, she credits them with a business trip to Halifax, where she got to go to Pier 21 where her father arrived in Canada years ago. Joyce got her community involvement from her Mother.
She told me a story of seeing what she thought was a homeless man (he was deaf) at Lady Jane Donuts on Carling Ave saying that he would wash dishes for food. Knowing her Mother made more than enough food and that she would have to do dishes that night she brought the man home. Joyce figured she would be free and clear from dish washing that night. The man was on his way to join family in Montreal when someone gave him the wrong directions and told him to get off the bus in Ottawa. Stranded, he had no clue what to do, but Joyce’s family contacted the man’s family in Montreal and got him on a bus bound for Montreal after dinner. Needless to say Joyce was still on the hook to do dishes that night.
Four years ago her Mother passed away and she kind of lost her zen for things. Joyce says she is never going to retire even if the Ottawa Hydro bills make her want too. She said there is still something else she needs to do. I have no idea what that might be, but one thing I know is the strength and love she gave her daughters is a feat in itself.
Shannon told me that her mother is someone who raised her to respect others, to respect herself and her surroundings. Being raised in a single-parent household, she was taught the value of a dollar and to be thankful for what she has. Never give up and to always work hard. These “teachings” weren’t from the words she expressed to her daughter, but they were from watching her Mother and learning from her actions. They say the best thing to hold onto in life is each other and there is no doubt Joyce has been the glue in her community and her family. She is someone that realizes another person’s happiness is more important than her own. Where there is love there’s life!
“She’s not only my mother…. she’s my best friend and the most self-less person I know. She’s seen me at my best and been there for me at my worst! Couldn’t ask for anything more in a role-model!” -Shannon Murray O’Neill