AMESBURY — Ashley’s Collection Hallmark has been in the Carriagetown Marketplace offering stationery, gifts, home decor, clothing and, of course, greeting cards for the past 18 years.
But, as they say, all good things must come to an end and the shop’s owners, Bill and Lynda Murray, have decided to retire at the end of the summer after almost five decades in retail.
“The customers have all been coming in over the past few days,” Lynda Murray said last week. “This is really bittersweet.”
The Murrays also own Ashley’s Hallmark Shop in Plaistow, New Hampshire, and have sold both locations to The Paper Store.
“Between the two stores, I have 44 women working for me,” she said. “Our people make our stores and we have so many people who have been with us since the beginning. They know the customers, they know them by name. It has been a family. We have been through it all.”
Murray said The Paper Store has been interviewing her employees, who will have to decide if they wish to stay on if hired.
“It is my hope that, for those who want to continue with them, that they will stay,” Murray said.
Murray met her husband while working at his father’s store, Murray’s Stationery in Medford, almost 50 years ago.
The pair would go on to own five successful stationery stores in Amesbury, Burlington, Peabody, Medford and Plaistow, but have steadily shrunk their portfolio down to the two current stores.
“We have been kind of downsizing,” Murray said.
Ashley’s Collection Hallmark will close its doors at the end of August and The Paper Store is expected to open in September.
“I think it was our home decor that drew people from the beginning,” Murray said. “We sold a lot of accent furniture, and wall art and floral decor. We were in that business long before HomeGoods started.”
The Murrays found they would have to change with the times and eventually began offering fine jewelry as well.
“That has really gone on to be a big seller,” she said. “We have really become known for that, along with our clothing.”
Owning a store on the border of sales tax-free New Hampshire has proven to be a challenge for many retailers but wasn’t much of an issue for Murray.
“Today, people shop for convenience,” she said. “If they need something and it’s another 10 miles to drive, they can save gas and shop more local.”
As the owners of Hallmark stores, Murray said she and her husband have bailed out many an absent-minded husband on Valentine’s Day and other occasions.
“We have seen it all, believe me,” she said.
But, owning a Hallmark store has also given the Murrays a chance to see people at their finest.
“They usually come in during a special occasion, a birth or a graduation,” Murray said. “They are looking for that special gift and we’re always able to help.”
But Naples, Florida, is calling the Murrays, who have built a retirement house down south.
“It was an extremely tough decision for my husband and I to decide to retire,” Murray said. “But we have seen so many people who don’t take that time to enjoy life and what we have worked hard for for all these years.”
Staff writer Jim Sullivan covers Amesbury and Salisbury for The Daily News. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 978-961-3145. Follow him on Twitter @ndnsully.