Shops new and old ready for holiday sales

SHOP SMALL For the latest in fashion, SOCO South County Fashion Boutique is open for business at 17367 Monterey St. Those looking for something timeless can head on over to Murphy's Mercantile nearby at 17337 Monterey St.

As Morgan Hill’s continued downtown revival marches on, one sector seems to be missing out: retail.

Two small shops—the new SOCO South County Fashion Boutique and the long-established Murphy’s Mercantile—represent the few destinations for shoppers looking for downtown deals. Now, as the Christmas holiday shopping season blasts off, strong holiday sales will have a significant impact on both businesses’ bottom lines.

After leaving the world of corporate marketing and advertising, SOCO owner Sara Francisco decided to act on a passion for fashion and dive into the risky world of retail to help bring a Silicon Valley vibe to South County.

“It takes a lot of money, a lot of time, and a lot of dedication, and if you don’t have those things, you’re not going to be able to pull it off,” Francisco said.

After taking over the lease from Olivia’s Boutique, the former tenant at 17367 Monterey St., Francisco invested more than $50,000 in remodeling. With the help of a few friends with boutique management experience, Francisco worked every day for four weeks to get SOCO ready to open Nov. 19.

“I love boutique shopping, and that was one of the reasons I got into this,” Francisco said. “Especially around here, if you’re not willing to go to Target and get your clothes, you don’t have many options. I would rather shop in downtowns. Places like Los Gatos have lots of retail and restaurants, and Morgan Hill is starting to have that feel.”

Francisco chose to move to Morgan Hill to escape the hustle of the corporate world of Silicon Valley. With three kids, Francisco recently separated from her children’s father, and opening SOCO was a way to show them that hard work pays off.

“I really needed something to focus on for myself, and to show my kids that you don’t need a lot of people to back you and you don’t need a partner if you’re strong-willed enough and willing to take that risk,” Francisco said.

Having a background in the marketing and advertising world has helped Francisco alert the public of SOCO’s opening. She’s blasted social media pages and has also bought ads in the region’s newspapers. Aside from marketing, Francisco invested in branding, including logo design and signs.

“Getting the word out is very important for a small business,” Francisco said. “Most don’t have much money, so I do what I can. Luckily I’m in Morgan Hill, so it’s affordable.”

Affordability is critical, and Francisco found a downtown storefront location for only $1,500 a month.

Given the variety of fashion for different ages groups, various sizes, and affordability, sales have been steady since Francisco opened SOCO.

“Business has been great so far,” Francisco said. “I think the word is getting out there, and I’ve already had referral type business coming in.”

Francisco focuses on women’s fashion, but depending on the strength of sales, she may diversify into men’s fashion and beyond.

“I want to branch out to men, kids, and possibly dogs,” Francisco said.

subhed: Extended holiday hours

Murphy’s Mercantile does not depend on Small Business Saturday—small business’ answer to Black Friday—as much as do many other stores. Festivals bring a lot of foot traffic down Monterey Road; in particular, the annual Taste of Morgan Hill, Wine Stroll and Beer Crawl are hot days for the store at 17337 Monterey Road. Christmas sales are key, however, and the store is extending its hours to accommodate shoppers.  

“December is obviously a good time of year for us,”  Murphy’s Mercantile co-owner Honnie Murphy said. “It’s the best for everybody; you probably get 30 percent of your sales in that month.”

After leaving their respective tech jobs, Honnie and sister Melissa Murphy opened their store in 2010 as a way to share their love for collecting with the community. Honnie Murphy gets calls and emails every day from people looking to sell antiques, but much of their merchandise comes from estate sales, garage sales, thrift stores or other antique shops.

“We appreciate history; there is value in old things,” Honnie Murphy said. “You can’t get rid of everything. I think they made things better in the past. I learn something new every day here.”

While the store looks full of items, the Murphys have storage units, basements and garages full of things that don’t fit in the downtown shop.

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SHOP SMALL For the latest in fashion, SOCO South County Fashion Boutique is open for business at 17367 Monterey St. Those looking for something timeless can head on over to Murphy’s Mercantile nearby at 17337 Monterey St.

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