A Family Tradition
A Pre-Prohibition Legacy.
We won’t confirm or deny but let’s just say our great-grandaunt E. Mae Murray seemed to be an expert in the libations industry long before Prohibition was repealed in 1933. Was Grandpa rowing to the middle of the Elk River floating buoys of booze? Did Cousin Walter build redwood crates with his father to ship East from California for contraband transport?
We’ll never tell but it makes for quite an interesting start, eh?
Murray’s Groceries and Liquors is where Jack and his brother Bob grew up, working afternoons from their time in grade school, through their days at Salesianum, and on weekends home from the University of Maryland. Jack went off to fight for our country in WWII, returning home at the age of twenty-something – after a brief stint in Seminary – meeting and marrying the love of his life and most loyal business partner, Ethel. He brought the city girl out of Brooklyn to settle down and raise a family on Bridge Street, above the old store, continuing to operate the business 365 days a year for their beloved community. Ethel and Jack welcomed customers – loyal friends – of all backgrounds, religions, and creeds… it didn’t matter, their doors were open. It was a place for everyone, even taking in local youth in need to their already cramped home of six children and hidden upstairs cats, as Ethel wasn’t too keen on having them in the house.
Each of their six children played a key role in the growth and success of the store and stronghold within the community. Sports were huge and State Line remains a zealous supporter in youth activities. Jack lived and taught the motto of no matter whether you win or lose, it’s all about how you play the game.
The year was 1879; Thomas Edison demonstrated incandescent lighting to the public for the first time in New Jersey, milk began being sold in glass bottles, and Mae Murray was born, twenty-years grandpa’s senior.
Mae, along with the first John Walter Murray and their sister, Dola, built the family business in the heart of downtown Elkton. From the ground up, they brought the townspeople a meeting place to gather together, gab about the local happenings, and purchase all their essentials, from applesauce to freshly butchered meats, 90-proof whiskey (once finally legal, of course,) to even fresh-cut Christmas trees.
When he locked eyes on a desolate piece of land near this new concept of an Interstate Highway system, a little road you may know as Interstate 95, he knew it was the right time for a move. History reminds us that I-95 only opened to drivers in 1963; this is after nine years of “planning, mind-making-up and mind-changing, legislative brawling and administrative postponing,” reports a Baltimore Sun article at the time. People thought he was nuts, as the only business to be seen on this stretch beneath the Elkton/Newark interchange linking Maryland to Delaware.
Turns out, he was a business genius! This started a new era for our family, most especially the sheer growth of the store in 1973, with several additions, property expansions, and a simple name change (“hello, State Line Liquors!”)
An icon was reborn and State Line became THE place to buy, to mingle, to gather, to enjoy the best of life. We pioneered the craft beer boom of the early 1990s, hosting the FIRST craft beer microbrew tasting this area had ever seen in our then-warehouse. Adding a singular kegerator tap, which has since been retired, State Line launched the idea of ready-to-fill growlers to-go. This enabled smaller breweries or test-batch beers to be more easily distributed via keg, making their brands accessible to customers outside of their local brewery radius. The Murray’s had to apply for legislation to be passed in support of such an unchartered territory of distribution. There were petitions at the check-out counters, call-your-local representative pleas made by our SLL Club Cardmembers, and campaigning for the greater good of Cecil County family liquor stores like ours. [Read the article in the Whig, here.]
After putting in the work, we won(!), and growler fills were finally legal in Cecil. Our five-tap system grew to ten… then twenty… and now, a full thirty-five tap growler bar. As the third generation accelerated the growth, the fourth began to join the ranks and the legacy lives on.
With public tastings previously hosted in our old wineroom – you might remember it – we knew we needed to make more space. Walls came down in the early 2010s and our warehouse transformed into a larger salesfloor and events area. Now we have roughly 15,000 square feet of product space open for your browsing pleasure!
Mae was ahead of her time in the 30s and we continue to channel that grit and great American spirit today.
We’re celebrating nearly 90 years of family business in the same town and community, a community of the same friends, both old and new alike, that put us on the map way back whenever. We thank you, we appreciate you… and “cheers!”
Cheers to our legacy!
Here’s to you Jack Murray!
Jack was called by God at the age of 81 on April 1st, 2008, peacefully passing at home, with his family present.
Born in Baltimore to John Walter Smith Murray and Martha Buffington Murray, he lived most of his life in Elkton. He is survived by his wife of 55 years, Ethel Ann, their six children and nine grandchildren; John, his wife Jane, and children Aileen and Branch, Joan M. MacKenzie, her daughter Lauren, Robert, his wife Bettie and children Matthew and Michael, Marcella Lockwood, her husband Wayne, and children Jacqueline and James, Maureen Bell, her husband Clyde and Maggie Allen, her husband Dickie and their children Eric and Erin. He is also survived by his brother, Bob and his family, and his cousins E. Walter, Jean Dixon, and Virginia Lee Bergamo and close friend Virginia (Miss Emma) Jones. He was predeceased by his dear sister-in law Helen Roberts.
Jack was a graduate of Immaculate Conception Grade School and Salesianum High School, after which he attended University of MD. He than spent a year in the seminary of the Missionary Servants before enlisting in the Navy during WWII. He was a successful business owner of Libby’s Beauty Shop, E. May Murray’s Store, State Line Liquors, and Redwood Stables Standardbred Training Facility.
Jack will be remembered for his involvement in the Elkton Little League baseball and softball programs. He coached and mentored youths for decades, taking the 1979 senior girl’s All-star team to a second place finish in the World Series. He also coached at Mt. Aviat Academy, Immaculate Conception School, Ursuline Academy, D. A. P. baseball and in the New Castle County Parks and Recreation Women’s League. He enjoyed all sports with a competitive nature, teaching everyone that it was not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game.
He was a beloved and devoted husband, father and grandfather. He is most known for his love of animals, great and small, especially driving around with his dogs in his infamous “dogmobile” and jogging his standardbred racehorses. In his retirement, he enjoyed traveling and spending time at his winter home in the Florida Keys.
He had a deep faith in God that showed in his actions and caring nature toward everyone. He was honored to become a 4th degree Knight of Columbus. He will be remembered and missed for his kind heart and generous spirit by his family and friends.
We remember the legacy of our dear mother and grandmother, our matriarch, Ethel A. Murray, known to most as Mrs. Murray, who a year ago on July 14, 2020, reunited in heaven with her loving husband of 55 years in life, our father and grandfather, John “Jack” Walter Murray, Jr.
Ethel was born on August 11, 1932, in the Bronx, New York, spending her childhood as a city girl growing up in Park Slope, Brooklyn with her sisters. She attended grade school at St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic School in Washington Heights and Saint Francis Xavier School in the Bronx, graduating from Catherine McAuley Commercial High School in 1949, a school that prepared young women for life beyond home economics, as most graduates went directly into the workforce.
In 1953, Ethel and Jack were married and moved to Elkton, MD to begin their lives together. They raised six children on Bridge Street in Elkton: John III, Joanie, Robert, Marcella, Maureen, and Marguerite; atop the family packaged-goods store known then as E. May Murray’s, across from the original Immaculate Conception Church Cathedral. Ethel and Jack eventually purchased the store from Grandpa, as Aunt Mae had passed, moving the family business out of town to a then desolate stretch of highway near an I-95 interchange, known today as the one and only State Line Liquors.
Before managing the family business, Ethel worked as a secretary for Getty Oil in Delaware City, known best for her skills of shorthand and typing.
Fine taste and a love for entertaining opened their home to many a soiree. From fundraisers to holiday parties and family Christmases, to campaign events, the home of Jack and Ethel Murray house was always open, welcoming, and full of joy, fun, and laughter… and lots of dogs per Pop pop!
In 1982, Ethel was elected to the Maryland House of Delegates, where she proudly served her Cecil County constituents and community for twelve years. Among other notable pieces of legislation includes her support for the expansion of the Maryland State Police Aviation Command of Dauphin helicopters for state medevac emergencies, a position that ended up saving Jack’s life after an accident at their Standardbred Training Facility, Redwood Stables.
She was an incredible woman who has left us blessed with amazing memories and an appreciation for both the simple and the finer things of life: paintings and art, jewelry, furniture and antiques, creating memories and spending time as a family. She was a stickler for proper grammar and having good manners. Ethel loved art and creating things; sewing, embroidery, latch hook, greeting cards, calendars; making many things from prayer blankets for each of her children and grandchildren to calendars for her loved ones using her Macintosh Computer — regularly attending classes at the Mac Store in Christiana to stay savvy! Games were another favorite and you could likely find her at the kitchen table, sipping coffee and playing a round or two of Mahjong, Rummy Tiles, or Bejeweled. She especially loved warm weather, swimming in the pool, happy hours, the phrase “a la fou” and the iconic cognac nightcap.
She enjoyed traveling and explored the entire world with Jack by her side. To far off places like China, Russia, Ireland, Italy, Spain, North Africa, France, Egypt, Japan, and across the United States to visit family in Maine, Williamsburg, Northern California, North Carolina Outer Banks, Orlando and Disney World, and of course, their beloved Florida Keys.
In retirement, Ethel and Jack purchased their winter home in Big Pine Key, FL, a place for family to visit and enjoy, passing on this same love for the Florida lifestyle to their children and grandchildren. They had wonderful friends and great neighbors in the Keys and enjoyed showing the Key Deer off to their guests, driving to Bahia Honda Beach, attending mass at Saint Peter Church, dining at No Name Pub, Keys Fisheries and The Square Grouper, and taking a boat ride to Picnic Island with Ronnie as captain. Their eldest daughter, Joanie, eventually resided with them, helping Ethel to care for Jack up to his passing in 2008, and continuing to care for mom, eventually settling on the mainland in Punta Gorda, FL.
Ethel was a devout Catholic and active parishioner of both Immaculate Conception Church, Elkton, MD, and Saint Peter The Fisherman Catholic Church, Big Pine Key, FL, where she devoted her time at both as a lector, eucharistic minister, fundraising volunteer and office accountant. She was a dedicated supporter of the Oblate Sisters of St Francis DeSales, volunteering and fundraising with the Friends of Villa Aviat, Elkton, MD. She gave of her time to Elkton Little League youth sports programs, Cub Scouts, Immaculate Conception School and Catholic Youth Organization, opened her home to host exchange students from France, and was active in each of her grandchildren’s upbringing.
Now reunited with Jack, she is survived and will be dearly missed by their six children and nine grandchildren: John, his wife Jane, and children Aileen Murray-Bates, husband Richard, and Branch Murray; Joan M. MacKenzie, her daughter Lauren; Robert and children Matthew and Michael; Marcella Murray Lockwood, her husband Wayne, and children Jacqueline and James; Maureen Murray; and Marguerite “Maggie” LaNovara, her husband John, and her children Eric Allen and Erin Hancharik, and her husband Joe. Each of her six children and nine grandchildren share in remembrance of their own special moments spent with her, a gift of memories for each to hold.
With Mom Mom, it was “five o’clock somewhere,” and we know she’s celebrating with Pop Pop; her beloved daughter-in-law and our Aunt Bettie Mahoney Murray; her dearest friend Miss Emma Virginia Jones; our Cousin E. Walter Murray of Healdsburg, CA; her sisters, Rose Fasano and Helen Roberts; and countless other friends and family she was eager to reunite with.
She will be greatly missed and remembered for her strength, resilience, class, savvy business sense, tenacity and determination. She was strong-willed, sometimes stubborn, and well-admired by all who knew her.
She did more in one lifetime than most could even dream of.