Reading Terminal Market’s new general manager, who starts on Wednesday, will have a big responsibility on his first day of work: sustaining operations at the century-old market during the coronavirus shutdowns.
The seven-member board of directors chose Conor Murphy, 36, after a national search and a series of virtual interviews and meetings. He will start in his role May 6, where he will oversee the 80 vendors at the sprawling landmark that is among the oldest and largest indoor markets in the United States and counted 6.5 million visitors in 2017.
Murphy’s predecessor, Anuj Gupta, decided to leave the position after five years to pursue his political ambitions and become chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans (D., Phila.), said Sarah Levitsky, the terminal’s marketing director.
“I grew up in grocery," said Murphy, who moved to Philadelphia in 2014 to work at a distilling company for the local coffee roaster La Colombe and later started a private consulting business and coffee company that makes specialty blends specifically for cocktails. “My family owned a grocery business, so it’s something I’m very familiar with.”
He beat out around 50 applicants for the position at Reading Terminal.
“There’s obviously a lot of work to do," he said. “There’s no denying that."
While interviewing for the job, he said, the market’s board was largely focused on keeping business running safely and efficiently during the pandemic.
“They were very focused on this,” said Murphy, who grew up in County Kerry, Ireland, and started his career as a risk consultant and project manager at the London-based professional services firm Ernst & Young before going on to expand his interest in entrepreneurship. They wanted to know, “What’s your vision to take us through [the pandemic] and what’s your concept for the future? ... The vision I mainly had in the interview process was the safety side of it."
He stressed that he wanted Philadelphians to have access to the market’s food during the pandemic — either through home delivery or in-person shopping — and questioned if operating hours should change to include designated shopping hours for seniors.
“You look at the history of the Reading Terminal ... and across the decades they had delivery service," he said. “So the Terminal has always done this, but it’s how do we do it going forward."
After the pandemic passes, Murphy said, he had ambitions of expanding the selection of food at the market to better mirror the diversity in Philadelphia and bringing the market’s wares to people who had difficulty coming to the Center City landmark.
“There’s been a lot of positives over the last few years," he said. The goal is “building on those and looking at gaps. And how do we close those gaps?”
He suggested creating satellite areas that the market could operate in or urging vendors to sell goods on food trucks — two possible solutions that could further distinguish Reading Terminal from nearby competitors such as Mom’s Organic Market and Whole Foods.