Lee Murphy may be a relatively new resident of Menlo Park — she recently moved close to downtown after living in Woodside and Portola Valley — but she’s hardly a new face.
For almost two decades, Lee has owned women’s clothing stores — first Calla on Santa Cruz Ave. for 15 years and then Kicks on Evelyn St. for the past six years.
“My retail journey began when I started doing Junior League shows selling ceramic jewelry by a San Francisco artist,” she said. “After about 10 years, my husband suggested I go out to the garage and find out how much merchandise I had.
“I didn’t know anything about clothing when I started Calla featuring that jewelry line and initially had about four racks of clothes. I was very lucky in that I got good advise from someone who helped me plan the Calla space.”
While still owning Calla (which is now Alys Grace under separate ownership), Lee opened Kicks because “there was no place to buy shoes in Menlo Park.” For the first five years it was just shoes and gifts; a year ago she added clothing.
Kicks features brands like Hunter, Ariat, Cole Hahn and Tom’s along with outer wear by Barbour. “I’ve always featured a selection of styles that appeals to a wide range of ages,” she said.
Long-time customers view Lee as a trusted friend and advisor. Many assume they know her well, so we asked her what might surprise her clients. “I ran the Honolulu marathon,” she replied. “It was a while ago and I actually walked it, but I did finish all 26 plus miles.”
Photo by Irene Searles
Lee says she has no secret of her ongoing retail success other than the common sense of “listening to my customers.”