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Alumni Business Owners: George Murray ’75 & Misty Pelliciotta ’94, ’17C

“The rewarding thing is to see old friends from a previous business come in and support us. A lot of it has to do with character and the way you treat people. The customers are the reward."
~ George Murray ’75, below with his wife Phyllis and daughter Misty Pelliciotta ’94, ’17C

Phyllis and George Murray '75, owners of Mimi & Papa’s Gourmet Popcorn and Homemade Ice Cream.

November 10, 2023 | Sarah Fetters

For George Murray ’75, life is sweet. The proud owner of Leland's Mimi & Papa’s Gourmet Popcorn and Homemade Ice Cream is living his dream of working alongside his wife, Phyllis, as the high school sweethearts began envisioning the store 17 years ago.

Colorful ice creams in the case at Mimi & Papa’s Gourmet Popcorn and Homemade Ice Cream.


A bag of popcorn served at Mimi & Papa’s Gourmet Popcorn and Homemade Ice Cream.

An Air Force veteran and former accountant, Murray left the corporate world and transitioned to entrepreneurship in the early 2000s. His first store, a frame shop, combined his love of art and pencil drawings. The store moved, expanded and became Murray Signs & Graphics. And then, in June of 2022, the time was right for Mimi & Papa's.

“I had just always wanted to open an ice cream shop,” Murray said. “Phyllis was working as an office manager for a dental practice and loved it. When she decided to retire from dental, we decided we were at the age in which to do things together. It literally fell into our plan for retirement.”

In addition to his wife, Murray’s business is aided by his daughter, Chief Marketing Director Misty Pelliciotta ’94 '17C, granddaughter, Head of Merchandising Jordan Pelliciotta, Pelliciotta’s husband, Rob '92, Murray's son, Chris, and Murray's great nephew, Drake. Three generations of the family staff and support the shop regularly.

"When my dad had his sign shop, he was a one-man show,” said Pelliciotta, who received a bachelor's degree from UNCW in finance and had been living in Charlotte with her husband and children. “He needed some extra help, so I came down. When talks of Mimi & Papa’s got serious, I decided it was time for my family to consider moving back to the area.”

Murray credits UNCW with preparing him to succeed as an entrepreneur.

He was initially drawn to the university by three friends from high school who had also enlisted in the Air Force, gotten out of the service and enrolled at UNCW.

“They encouraged me to apply and go to school with them,” said Murray, who received a bachelor’s degree in economics. “And that’s what I did. My training at UNCW and the fellowship with the professors that continued throughout quite a few years was a big foundation for me in each business. I couldn’t have done any of my positions without the foundations I had at UNCW.”

Murray and Pelliciotta even shared a few professors within the Cameron School of Business, including Dr. Roger Hill, whose beach house Murray painted and whom Pelliciotta had as an adviser.

“We bonded with our professors in the business department,” Murray said. “It was so cool when Misty applied at UNCW that those guys were still there. I made sure she introduced herself, and those professors had a lot of things to say about me!”

Now that the Murray family is reunited at Mimi & Papa’s, the opportunities are endless for all holidays, special events and other occasions with their sweet treats, all thanks to a start at UNCW.

The Murray family at Mimi & Papa's.

Learn more about the Murray family and Mimi & Papa’s Gourmet Popcorn and Homemade Ice Cream in this exclusive interview.

Alumni-owned businesses are a point of pride for the UNCW Alumni Association and connect the Seahawk family across the country and around the globe. Search the directory of alumni-owned businesses to see where you can #ShopSeahawk.