Byron Murphy

My connection to this place and why I love the area and downtown is that my whole life has been built around here. I moved in from Gander with my folks when I was three years old and basically lived in the East End most of my life.
My childhood downtown was going to school at the bottom of Signal Hill Road. St. Joseph school was there. That's where I went to school. I think it gave us an opportunity to see both sides of the fence living in this area — people who had money, people who didn't have money and people who were down the middle.
I think was a great area and a learning curve as you were growing up that you’ve got to work hard. There were big families at the time. Five, six, seven people in a household and not a lot of money. Growing up in the East End for me was that. I appreciated what I had because we never had a lot.
I do remember Ayres. I do remember Woolworth's and the famous escalator that everybody wanted to ride. I do remember Bowerings and all the smaller shops. The Arcade. We'd sit on the lunch counter down at The Arcade and ride the escalator at Woolworth's.
I first came to work down here in 1985 and then I opened my own store in 1992. There was absolutely no other place that I was ever going to open up a men's shop but here on this strip. All this whole area — I think it's an incubator for entrepreneurial people and I think that you get some individual businesses down here; and if you're an individual type of store downtown allows you to create something that no one else does. This is the area to do it in because you can establish your business and you can establish your look.
Never at any time did I ever think I would not move into my top floor flat of my building. I walk the hood a lot see the changes, to see people. I know everybody down here. The vibe is cool. You can live. You can eat. You can play. You can do everything down here. You can walk to wherever you want to go. There is no other place to be.
The difference in the downtown now as compared to when I grew up down here is very dramatic. Once the malls really got rolling I think downtown took a kick for a while but then it gave an opportunity for a lot of smaller individuals to say, OK, let's take some space down here and we'll put our mark on it.
Since I opened my shop, I've seen two or three times where there's been a purge and all of a sudden you see seven or eight or nine businesses closing up but as they close within a year and a half to two years all those empty spots are filled up and people are going again. And as far as worrying about the downtown area I think there's always a spot for someone who wants to open up.
I guess what I'd like to see for the future downtown is more of a dense population living in the area. I think you can still raise families in this area.There are still schools around. As more people live in the area, everything flourishes. That's really the biggest thing for me.

by Byron Murphy, president of Byron's Clothing for Men, 188 Water Street, St. John's. Mr. Murphy is a long-time resident of the downtown and Vice Chair of the Downtown St. John's Board of Management.