Nancy Murray is a force to be reckoned with, and at 71 years old, she’s not slowing down anytime soon. As the owner of Feeling Groovy smoke shop in Peoria, Illinois, she’s built a successful business and loyal customer following that is the envy of her peers in the industry.
But Nancy isn’t your average smoke shop owner, and she’s not afraid to speak her mind.
Nancy’s son, Paul, her partner in the business, made a meme depicting her as a cute little chihuahua with its teeth bared, reflecting her personality as “a nice, easy going person that doesn’t take shit.”
“I’ve been in this business for more than 14 years, and I’ve seen a lot of changes,” says Nancy. “But one thing that hasn’t changed is my love for my customers. They’re like family to me, and I’ll do anything for them.”
She’s aways willing to go the extra mile to make her customers happy whether helping them with product selections or simply joking around to bring a smile to their face.
But Nancy’s success didn’t come overnight. She studied marketing and management in college, but the real-life business lessons she learned from her father, an innovatively-minded salesman for Proctor and Gamble.
“My dad was ahead of his time,” says Nancy. “He taught me how to sell cheap and sell a lot. He also taught me about off pricing (like marking products at X.99 rather than an even amount) and offering rewards programs to keep customers coming back.”
Those lessons have served Nancy well over the years, and she’s continued to build on his teachings to create a thriving business. But being a woman in a male-dominated industry hasn’t always been easy.
“I’ve had to work my butt off. When I first started, I was one of the only women in the smoke shop game,” says Nancy. “But that actually played to my advantage. Men tend to underestimate women, and I used that to my advantage. I would go into meetings and they would think I was just some sweet little old lady, but then I would start talking business and they would be shocked at my knowledge and my ability to negotiate.”
“If there’s ever a problem [with her gender] I’ve just told them to go to hell,” she adds. “I’m a straight shooter. Here’s the thing — you be nice to me and I’ll be nice to you. If you can’t do that, then you’re not getting my money.”
One of the things that sets Nancy’s business apart is her unique approach to running it. She operates the shop solely with Paul’s help, and is a fixture there six days a week.
“Hired help doesn’t care as much as you do,” she says “I love my store and I feel energized when I’m there. What else am I going to do at my age? When I am not at the store, I go home and sit with my dog and watch The First 48.”
Despite the fact that Nancy is an older woman, she has never had any issues with customers being surprised to see her behind the counter.
“My people love me,” she said. “When Illinois went recreational, I knew our target market would be people my age, and I was right. Our business increased even more from that.”
Nancy’s feisty attitude and business acumen have earned her the respect of her peers and customers alike. She’s become something of a trailblazer for others in the industry, demonstrating that with dedication and a strong sense of values, anyone can be successful in business, regardless of their gender or age.
“Being a woman never stopped me, ever,” she says. “It’s not always easy, but if you have a love for your customers and a willingness to work hard, you can be successful.”