Emporium owner Wanita Murphy will hold an anniversary
open house Friday (tomorrow) to thank her customers for 20 years
owner marks 20th anniversary
Emporium, or market center, from the Greek word emporos, meaning merchant
For more than 20 years customers have come to Yellow Springs Emporium
at the center of downtown to buy coffee, wine, newspapers and other essential
This Friday, Feb. 14, store owner Wanita Murphy is having an all-day open
house to acknowledge the loyal patronage her business has received since
she bought it on Valentines Day two decades ago.
Things were a little different in 1983, for Murphy and the store. Then
the business was a fourth of its current size. Then Murphy was a single
mother of five children instead of six. Then she was 51 instead of 71.
But she was then, as always, interested in food.
When I started I knew I wanted to do something with food,
she said. I liked to cook.
Before Murphy bought the store, it had been open for four years and sold
coffee and gourmet cookware and had a small selection of wine, she said.
Murphy was living in Cincinnati working in elementary education and going
through a divorce. She and her son Michael, then a junior in high school,
were ready for a life change.
I said to Michael, Where do you want to go, we can go anywhere
you want, and I thought hed say Hawaii or something,
Murphy said. He said, Lets go to Yellow Springs.
Murphy purchased the business from then Yellow Springs resident David
Scott, with a recently acquired inheritance, and one of the first things
she did was place an order for French bread to go with the wine.
Paul and Kathy Monaghan had the Yellow Springs Baking Company, and
they had the best sourdough bread, Murphy said.
It wasnt long before she realized the cookware wasnt selling,
and one change became many.
I realized you can only sell so many pieces of good quality cookware
in a small town before all your customers are supplied with what they
need for a long time, she said. When the economy takes a dip,
consumable products will still sell.
So Murphy began taking wine classes and going to all the tastings she
could find. She expanded the store by taking out the apartment in the
back to make room for a bigger selection of wine, and then more beer.
She doesnt have to deliberate too long about what new changes are
coming down the pike. She only has to listen, and her customers will tell
Its always about what do our customers keep asking for,
And she doesnt mind when the customers ask for more food, she said.
When they asked for more international beers, she got beer. When they
wanted soup, she developed a few soups, and then many more soups. When
they asked for Nutella, she searched far and wide until she found it.
Murphy learned to appreciate good food as a 6-year-old, when she started
working in her grandmothers kitchen on a Michigan dairy farm. They
always used the freshest ingredients, fresh milk and garden vegetables.
Murphy remembers the care and attention her grandmother gave to slicing
a red tomato and wrapping a thin strip of green pepper around it for color.
She was always proud of homemade good quality food, and presentation
mattered to her, Murphy said. I wish I had written down her
molasses cookie recipe and her sugar cookies too. Oh man, they were good!
Her refined taste buds have helped to develop the wine selection, which
makes up the largest part of The Emporiums business. Wine reps come
in on Wednesdays, she said, to offer samples of wines from as far away
as Australia and as close to home as Lake Erie.
You can tell if its got a good fruit and a good tannin it
will go down well, she said. Youre looking for a balance.
And Murphy is looking for what her customers need. There are a lot of
good cooks in Yellow Springs who do a lot of ethnic cooking, she said,
and theyre always looking for wines that match.
I think to myself, o.k., shes going to come in and have something
with cumin in it and Ill make a note that this wine goes well with
that flavor, she said.
Murphys discerning taste has also helped create some of the stores
soups, sandwiches, muffins and cookies. She also gets to cook for friends
and for the Yellow Springs Chamber Music dinners, where she chooses the
ethnic food of the performers home country.
Murphy does not like to credit herself too much for having the energy
to do it all.
Its just something you do, she said. I havent
had a chance to sit on my laurels yet.
And Murphy is by no means doing it alone.
Local resident Tucker Malishenko makes most of the soups. Vick Mickunis,
the music director at WYSO, manages the beer selections. Jan Goodwin does
a lot of the baking and manages the liquor business. Former manager Kathy
Monaghan still takes care of the books. All told Murphy has 12 employees
managing different parts of the business, and she says she couldnt
have done it without them.
The most important thing I want to say is that Ive got a really
great staff, and thats so important with a small business in a small
town, she said.
Murphy plans to make more small changes and improvements here and there.
With one ear always turned toward the customers, she is hearing a need
for a larger selection of prepared foods, more wine tastings and more
Essentially Murphy will continue what she has been doing all along. And
the customers will keep coming.