Murray-Kay Ltd. began when George B. Wylie set up a drapery dry goods store in the late 1840’s at 21 King street East in Toronto. The company was renamed ‘Wylie and Murray’ when Wylie took on Mr. W.A. Murray as a partner. After Wylie retired in 1858 the company was operated by just Mr. Murray and was renamed as W.A. Murray & Company. In 1872 Murray took on a new partner, a Mr. Dynan, but his name was never included in the name of the business.
Over the years the company expanded to include #23 King street by 1865, #17 & #19 King street by 1875, #25 & #27 King street by 1890, #29 & #31 King street by 1905, and #15 King street by 1920. By 1885 the company employed 300 in the importation, manufacture and retailing of dry goods, millinery, house furnishings, and carpets. However, the company specialized in clothing and period advertisements focus on their wide range of clothing for men, women, and children, millinery, fancy goods & notions, boots & shoes, sportswear, and underwear. In 1892 dressmaking was added to the list of available services, and in 1900 the company was first advertised as a department store.
In 1910 the company amalgamated with John Kay, a furniture and carpeting shop and in 1911 the company was officially renamed Murray Kay Co., Ltd. By the 1920s, the fashionable shopping area in Toronto had moved up to Bloor street from King street. Murray Kay Co., didn’t change locations which perhaps lead to the company taking on a new partner in 1923, renaming themselves as Petley & Murray Kay. However, this amalgamation closed its doors in 1925. John Kay reopened in new premises and continued to make furniture into the 1980s.