Murray’s Jewelers, the Pride of Muncie, Indiana

The men of Murray’s rise above the rest with their mad repair, sales, and design skills

Five generations of Murrays have cranked the 100-year-old register mounted inside the family jewelry store in Muncie, Ind. But never has the shop been home to so many craftsmen. Founded in 1885 by James E. Murray as a watch and harness shop, Murray’s Jewelers is now run by five of his descendants: brothers and fourth-generation owners Todd and Steve, both master watchmakers; Todd’s wife, Janie, who keeps the books; and their sons Ryan, a bench jeweler and business school grad, and James, a GIA-trained gemologist. With so much know-how on hand, Murray’s creates about 70 percent of its jewels on site. That “insulates us from the chain stores,” Todd says. “We don’t have to worry about Zales stealing our customers away.”

Family Benefits

Todd: Working with my family is the best part of having this business. We don’t have to worry about employees who don’t have the same mindset as a family member. [And] when someone takes a vacation, we don’t have to worry about how the store is being run.

James: If I’m in Tucson at a gem show and can’t get all my custom jobs done, I can hand it off to a family member and know it’s going to be done well. Everyone scratches each other’s back.

New Classics

Todd: Had the boys not come into the business, Steve and I wouldn’t have purchased CAD software and CNC mills. We also have a brand-new POS system we would never have implemented. Without them, Steve and I would probably just be retired.

James: Pretty much everything that I didn’t learn from GIA, I learned from my dad. I probably was one of the few 12-year-olds who knew how the lost-wax casting technique worked.

Mixing It Up

James: The business is really a mix of old and new. I’ll be showing something on an iPad and someone will want me to round out a ring. So I’ll throw it onto a mandrel and hit it with a rawhide mallet, which is a technique that’s been around for hundreds of years.

Todd: I’m very proud that both the boys wanted to come work with their dad and mom. I think the type of store we are made it [attractive]. We’re not a typical store that just buys jewelry from a manufacturer and waits for it to sell.

Wise Words

James: Joining the family business can be a great opportunity if you come in with an open mind. Steve showed me all sorts of new things on the bench that I didn’t learn at GIA. You have to be willing to be shown the ropes.

Todd: I would tell owners bringing in their sons or daughters to teach them a skill or trade that will differentiate your store from the competitors. My grandfather made it through the Depression [as] a watchmaker and jewelry repairman. When sales stopped—and looking at old ledgers, we know they did—they continued to make it. If you don’t have skills, you’re just another salesman.

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