Jim Murphy's still enjoying the good times 40 years on
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Jim Murphy's still enjoying the good times 40 years on

AJ Murphy remembers spending his teenage years, at weekends and in school holidays, carrying cases of wine, or slabs of beer, out to the cars of customers at his father’s market cellars.

Almost 25 years later he’s still doing the same thing, albeit running the family business at the same time. He says that personalised service hasn't wavered for the past 40 years and that's been one of the secrets of the business's success.

AJ Murphy at Jim Murphy's Market Cellars,  celebrating 40 years of business.

AJ Murphy at Jim Murphy's Market Cellars, celebrating 40 years of business. Credit:Dion Georgopoulos

“You’ve got to look after the customers,” he says, sneaking off during the photoshoot to help a woman find a particular wine.

“It’s not that hard, whether it’s giving them advice on wine or carrying that box out to the car, we want people to feel that we care about them.”

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AJ’s father Jim, who died in 2011, opened the doors at the Fyshwick site in 1978. He had been working at the staff centre at the Australian National University, after coming across from the Civic Hotel in the late 1960s.

“Dad said they drank wine at the staff centre like they drank beer at the Civic Hotel, and he had no idea about wine,” he said.

Jim Murphy, far right, in 1983: he always wanted to share his love of wine with others.

Jim Murphy, far right, in 1983: he always wanted to share his love of wine with others.Credit:Fairfax Media

“He wanted to learn about wine, the professors would order wine off him but he had no idea.

“So in his first holidays he jumped on a bus and went to South Australia and met some of Australia’s prominent wine makers, Wolf Blass, John Glaetzer, and he started to learn more about wine.”

AJ said his father was never a beer drinker - a bacardi was more his thing - and wine soon became a passion for him.

Murphy senior was a firm supporter of the Canberra community, through his charity work and philanthropy, and the business has always been an advocate of the Canberra wine industry.

Jim Murphy and Prime Minister John Howard in 2000.

Jim Murphy and Prime Minister John Howard in 2000. Credit:Peter Wells

Murphy was involved in the establishment of the International Riesling Challenge with his good mate Ken Helm, and today the store has one of the best ranges of local wines.

“Canberra is finally on the map when it comes to wine,” AJ says.

“It took too long maybe, but now not only do we have the stalwarts like Helm and Lark Hill but there's young guys coming through like Nick O'Leary and Alex McKay out at Collector Wines.

“They're serious about what they do and we're serious too so it works really well.

“If the local wines are good we'll support them.”

Jim Murphy at the store in 2003.

Jim Murphy at the store in 2003. Credit:Martin Jones

Would his father be proud that the business has made 40 years?

“One hundred percent, few people thought he’d make it 10 years," he said.

“I don't think he'd be happy with what I've spent to do the shop up, but other than that he'd see it now and go ‘We probably did need to move forward, give her a bit of a face lift’.

“I remember years ago people would have to reverse a trolley out of the aisle because someone else was coming the other way. Dad liked the idea of people having to fight their way through, hoping to find a hidden gem, but I must admit I like it neat and tidy.”

AJ says many customers who were there in the beginning still pop in. One man, now in his 90s, first came in the opening week.

“We’ve seen a lot of changes, with the big chains coming into the market, the changes in what people are drinking. Canberra has changed, what’s remained the same is our commitment to the customer.”

So what one bottle would this second generation take home after a bad day?

“Is there a bad day in the liquor industry?” he says.

It seems that dad’s cry of “enjoy the good times” still rings true.

Karen Hardy is a reporter at The Canberra Times.

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