Owner Jenny Murphy shutters Edmonds’ Sound Styles after 38 years

Sound Styles owner Jenny Murphy pauses for a photo.

It’s an Edmonds institution, a community meeting place, a place where generations have shopped for everything from christening attire to wedding apparel to somber funeral wear.

“This is absolutely the coolest thing I could have ever done for 38 years,” said Sound Styles owner Jenny Murphy. “This isn’t a high-profit-margin business — I don’t do this for the money — it’s a labor love. I regret not one moment of it.”

A nearly empty Sound Styles reflects a grey February afternoon earlier this week.

The story began two storefronts down from Sound Styles’ current location at 5th and Main, when Jenny’s mom and dad joined forces with another couple to purchase what was then the Lady Haberdasher — the space is now occupied by Pelindaba Lavender.

“The parents managed the business end of it, and I and the other couple’s 16-year-old daughter did the day-to-day running of the shop,” explained Murphy.

But her role soon expanded when the other couple found it wasn’t working for them and sold out to Jenny’s family.

“Mom stepped in to take care of the books, and I was pretty much doing everything else from displays and choosing stock to hiring and firing,” she laughed. “Mom basically did everything you didn’t see, I did everything you did see. Over the years, Mom was not just my business partner, she was my best friend. We were a tight team.”

Owner Jenny Murphy in the front reception area of the Sound Styles store, circa 2012. (Photo by Bob Sears)

This mother-daughter partnership persisted through moving to the current Sound Styles space at the corner of 5th and Main and years of watching the downtown business area evolve.

“Five years ago, Mom turned 88 and decided it was time to give up her active role in the business,” Murphy explained  “Sadly she passed just a few weeks ago, on Jan. 19.”

And while this loss contributed to Murphy’s decision that it was time to close her store, there were other larger factors in play that really tipped the balance for her.

Remaining stock is sparse, and the discounts are deep.
As the stock is sold off, the display tables and shelves follow it out the door.

“As I got closer to retirement age, I’ve thought more and more about selling the business. But it was easy to say, ‘oh well, I’ll just hang on another year,’” she explained. “There’s so much I want to do in retirement — writing, music, travel — and I didn’t want to put it off too long.

“Then a year ago I learned that my rent would be increasing by almost 50%, and that was the straw that put me over the wall.”

Once the decision to close the store was made, Murphy started selling off her stock, shelving, display tables and more. While there are a few items left, the store is now an empty shell, and she hopes to be completely out by this Friday.

But one thing that’s not going is her beloved Steinway baby grand piano, a popular fixture at Sound Styles and a harbinger of what’s next for Murphy.

Murphy plays one of her self-written country western tunes on her beloved Steinway baby grand, a familiar feature of the store.

An accomplished musician, Murphy has been writing music for years and hopes to ramp up this effort in retirement and maybe sell some of her tunes. Her genre is country and western, but not so much the twangy stuff — more in the Emmylou Harris vein. “I just love it,” she adds!

She also needs more time to finish up a major writing project, turning her dad’s World War II memoirs into a publishable book.

“I love the World War II era,” she confessed. “It’s one of my favorite periods and literary genres.”

She’s also working on writing screenplays for what she hopes will become a detective TV series.  “Screenwriting is new for me, so I want to educate myself about it and take my time,” she said.

And travel is also in her future, with three trips already planned and more on the way.

But after all these years, Murphy’s community roots go deep, so don’t fret — Edmonds has definitely not heard the last of her.

“I have no plans to move from my home in downtown,” she added. “My place is here. For years, my store has been a community gathering place, and I’m always on the lookout for more ways to give back to this place that I love. It may be the end of an era for Sound Styles, but stay tuned — Edmonds is in me, and I’m in it. I’ll be around.”

— Story and photos by Larry Vogel

  1. Oh wow! I have shopped in her store for so many years! I still have many items and the choices there were always so fashionable and current. I will miss this store. I have an original piece of art from a local gallery of her storefront featuring one of her window displays. It’s such a treasure. Good luck Jenny!

  2. The rent was going up by nearly 50%?
    Hmmmmm…..that’s concerning. Who owns that building?

    As I had said in a previous comment in regard to the news of their closing, I will miss Shelly Simmons’s artistic window displays that have become such an important part of the downtown experience.

    Sending my heartfelt condolences to Jenny Murphy and family on the passing of her mom and best wishes to her as she embarks on the next leg of her journey!

  3. Thank you Jenny…a job well done! We will miss you, and wish you fun times in retirement. The ole’ bitter/sweet.

  4. Very sad to see another Edmonds institution closed. Sound Styles had clothes for real women’s bodies and mature women’s fashion. I’ll miss it

  5. I will miss Sound Styles. Shopping at Sound Styles was always enjoyable, even when I just looked at the merchandise. Everyone was so friendly. It definitely was a shop that brought me to downtown Edmonds. I worry about what kind of business can afford rent at 50% higher. Obviously the owner of the building was trying to drive a thriving, vital retail business from our downtown. Garden Gear next door will also be missed. I fear for the future of Edmonds downtown and its retail businesses.

  6. Of course so many of us will miss Sound Styles clothing and wish Jenny well. And still, there are many, many people who will miss the gracious women who worked there over the years. Young and old alike will miss the fabulous window displays featuring the genius and creativity of Shelly Simmons who pulled it all together. Shelly and her magnificent window creations were always the unspoken, splendid invitation to enter the store, explore and discover your own creativity and style. Shelly, a huge thank you for the years of elegance, whimsy and joy!

  7. Hate to see you go! Have always enjoyed your window displays. You were such a part of Edmonds, it’s hard to think of something else going in there. You will be missed. Thanks for all you have done and God bless you in your new endeavors. Keep traveling and enjoying life.

  8. I will sure miss this store! It was always the one place I had to visit when visiting my family in Edmonds. I followed the You tube videos from Friday Harbor and would even come down to “visit” but wanted to go see what was new at my favorite store after watching her videos. Jenny, thank you for the clothing tips, for your smile and enthusiasm. I wish you well in your retirement journey!

  9. Thanks for all of the fabulous years of Sound Styles Jenny. Now go out and have fun in your next great adventures.

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