Beth Murray steps down after 24 years in business

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From left are new owner Bob Urbain and Beth Murray. (Press photo by Caroline Rosacker)

By Caroline Rosacker 

In 1998, Beth Murray, and her husband, Dan, purchased Dave's Sports Outlet, owned by Dave, Rosalie and the late Loras Kickbush. Beth's intention was to add a nursery to the existing bait shop located at the intersection of Highway 52 and Garber Road, renaming it Murray's Country Garden and Outdoor Store.

Beth had nursery experience working for big growers in Illinois such as W.E. Mundy Landscaping, Fasel and Sons Nursery and Shaefer Greenhouse.

"I didn't have any educational background, just on-the-job training," Beth explained. 

Traumatic first year

The longtime business owner opened her door on Jan. 1, 1999, and has just completed her 24th year in business. "In May of that year, with all of my nursery stock in place, and contracted trees and shrubs from Keppler Landscaping, the railroad sprayed weed killer near the tracks to keep the weeds down. The overspray killed my entire stock, including the contracted items," she reported. "I tried to take the railroad to task, but it didn't pan out. I had to pay Keppler for his trees and shrubs. I stayed standing and built on what little I could." 

Although Beth experienced many excellent years in the nursery business, Mother Nature was not always cooperative. "We had some terrible wind storms tipping things over," she recalled. "One big wind took a smaller green house and tipped it over on my trailer." 

A flood six years ago also interrupted business. "We had to do a lot of clean up.  The mud was in the building. We lost shrubbery and trees that just disappeared. One of the County guys came in after the flood with a perfectly intact blue spruce. He said he found it behind the trestle bridge," she laughed.  

"Two years ago we encountered a hard frost in late spring," she told The Press. "We cut everything back and it came out of it." 

Grateful to many

Beth expressed deep gratitude for her employees, customers and nursery suppliers. "I could not have been successful in this business without my dedicated staff and longtime customers," she said. "I had so many wonderful hard-working employees. I have acquired some awesome growers throughout the years as well, which I will pass on to Bob Urbain, the new owner."

Right-hand man

In 2013, Dan retired from his career as project manager for one of the largest commercial roofing companies in Illinois. "Dan became my right-hand man. I couldn't have done these last years without him," she said with a smile. 

Dan insists all the credit for the business goes to Beth. "I'm just the silent partner, and the more silent the better," he said jokingly.

Long hours 

The 72-year-old businesswoman worked approximately 75 - 80 hours each week cultivating her destination business, which has customers from all over the Tri-State area. "Because of the bait shop I was here in the building at 5 a.m. every day since 1999," she commented. 

Beth was always looking for ways to expand the business, including opening up a successful campground in 2010 for hunters, fishermen and visitors. "My customers always asked me what I was going to try next. I would reply, 'I haven't thought of it yet, but when I do, if it works it stays – if not it's out of here!' " she exclaimed. 

Surprise party

Beth would like to give special thanks to her niece/employee Samantha Copeland for the wonderful, surprise retirement party she, family and staff put together. "I had no idea! It was such a big surprise! I want to thank everyone who attended – all 150 of them! Dan kept me delayed at church as long as he could, and when we pulled up everyone was parked in the back. I was blown away when they yelled surprise!" she said with a big smile. "Thank you so much for the gifts, cards, and especially all the wonderful support from family, friends and especially customers. We couldn't have done this business without all of you!" 

Beth and Dan are looking forward to traveling and visiting their six children, 16 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. "We are going to Colorado for Thanksgiving, and it is the first trip we have ever taken together," she said. "We plan to move away from the area, but will never forget the kindness and support this community and all my employees have shown us."

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