For 40 years, a good fit

Ray Murphy, owner of Tommy's Men's Shop at 2917 N. 22d St., gets a hug from customer Peggy Hynson.
Ray Murphy, owner of Tommy's Men's Shop at 2917 N. 22d St., gets a hug from customer Peggy Hynson. (APRIL SAUL / Staff Photographer)

Tommy's Men's Shop is a landmark along N. Phila.'s 22d St. corridor.

Posted: October 21, 2012

With only a high school diploma and no formal business training, Ray Murphy, after a lot of turndowns from loan officers, managed to borrow $100,000 in 1972 to buy the already well-known Tommy's Men's Shop in North Philadelphia.

Forty years later, that storefront is a neighborhood landmark.

Loyal customers credit Murphy as the reason the shop has been successful enough to celebrate its 40th year at 2917 N. 22d St. But to Murphy, the longevity of his store is a testament to the surrounding area, not his business savvy.

"I've been able to stay in this location for so long mainly due to consistent community support," Murphy, 63, said. "We've had our share of struggles throughout our 40 years, but we still remain. This 22d Street corridor is great for the inner-city community, and I'm proud to be a part of that."

On Saturday, Council members Cindy Bass and Curtis Jones Jr. went to the store to give Murphy a proclamation saluting his years in business.

Murphy has made a point of hiring young people from the area to work part time at Tommy's.

A transplant from the South, Murphy was bullied in school because of his regional accent. Out of fear, he formed a gang in junior high school to survive the streets.

"We trained ourselves at a local boxing gym, and I got pretty good at fighting," he said.

"Once my reputation as a tough guy was out there, I could not remain a gang member. My family wouldn't have it, and I had to respect them. In my heart, that life was never truly a part of me.

"We hire young men to give them experience in retail, and, hopefully, we can help the community by taking them off the street," Murphy said. "We encourage them to become businessmen and not to get involved in violence."

That strong connection to the community is why Murphy and Tommy's have made such a lasting impression on local life.

"This store is such an icon," longtime customer Will Maxton said. "People from the neighborhood love coming here because they are treated like family."

"My thoughts of Tommy's are always positive," Norman Parker said. "There is never any pressure from the salesmen when I'm in here. His is the only place I shop."

What started out as a 1,000-square-foot storefront has tripled in size.

"This 40-year celebration is shared with everyone in the community," Murphy said. "I am forever grateful that they have been here with me all these years."


Contact Joe Trinacria at 215-854-2771 or JTrinacria@phillynews.com.

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