Vineyard Vines’ Shep and Ian Murray on the State of Retail, the Good Life, and a Flagship at Grand Central Terminal

by Ashley Baker

In an era where many in the industry are struggling to grasp a successful retail formula, it’s good to be Vineyard Vines. The brand, founded in 1998 by brothers Shep and Ian Murray, got its start with peppy, preppy ties that exuded their spirit of “The Good Life.” Eighteen years later, the brand sells in over 600 boutiques worldwide, and boasts 86 of its own stores around the country—with an additional 15 or so to open before the end of the year. The Murray brothers, who remain as sole owners of the business, recently toasted their new Grand Central Terminal outpost. Located at 89 East 42nd Street, the 6,000 square foot space offers goods for men, women, and children alongside golf bags, coolers, and store-specific product. In between posing for selfies with Vineyard Vines superfans, the brothers discussed the brand’s evolution.

How long has this idea been in the works?
Shep: We actually pitched to do a store in the [adjacent] Banana Republic space about five years ago. The real answer is that when we first launched retail, a realtor asked, “Where would you like to open up a store in New York City? Where is your customer?” Ian and I said, “One hundred percent, we want to be in Grand Central Terminal.” We think it’s the hub of the city—you get the tourists, the commuters, and it’s centrally located. New York City used to be this place we had to commute to; now we see it as the island capital of the world. It’s the coolest, best island in the world, and the fact that we’re right at the center of it is awesome. We used to hate riding the train, and now, I think up excuses to ride the train so we can come and see the store.

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You opened quietly in June, and you’re hosting the celebration now. How has the store been performing so far?
Shep: It’s been crazy. We weren’t anticipating such a huge response.
Ian: This is such a unique place, with unique traffic patterns. Holiday weekenders, commuters—it’s different all the time. We’re hearing that there’s a huge international tourist element, too. It’s been great brand exposure, and we’ve done it in a place that feels right for the city and for the “every day should feel this good” mantra that we march to every single day.

How much time do you spend at your headquarters in Connecticut, versus being on the road?
Shep: In the summer, we live on the Vineyard with our families, which we’ve done since we’ve started, and it’s been incredible.
Ian: We’re in town when school’s in session. Shep spends about a month of the year in Florida.
Shep: And we travel from Connecticut for work about one night a week.

You’re coming up on your 20th anniversary in a couple of years. Are you looking ahead to that yet?
Shep: But we’re still bachelors in our twenties!
Ian: Not as much as we should, probably. We didn’t do this to make money—we did it because we love it, and that’s how we approach everything.

You have so many product categories now—mens, womens, childrens, denim. Where do you see yourselves growing?
Shep: We strive to be a great family brand for all ages. When it comes to category expansions, we can continue to expand and evolve our current offerings, but we’ve also talked about other categories, whether it’s home, fragrance, restaurants, hotels…
Ian: A lot of our growth will come from doing what we already do—tell our story, include our customers in the brand, featuring them as part of our DNA, and then gaining new customers. We want to reach new audiences without changing who we are in order to do so. It’s really cool—we walk through Grand Central Station, and there are so many people who aren’t wearing our clothes. There’s always an opportunity to introduce ourselves.

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