Emily McCarthy’s Next Era

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From a small stationery endeavor to a glistening new storefront on Victory Drive, Emily McCarthy + Company continues to reinvent and inspire


EMILY MCCARTHY’S EPONYMOUS lifestyle and clothing brand all started — like many things do — with a passion. 

A graphic designer by trade and a Southerner by birth, McCarthy’s first love was creating stationery. Following graduation from LaGrange College, she landed a job at Swoozie’s, an Atlanta-based paper, gift and lifestyle company, and became immersed in merchandise design.

After marrying her husband, Patrick, and moving to Savannah, she developed the confidence to give the industry a go on her own. “To this day, my husband still says he was scared about that choice,” says McCarthy. 

Emily McCarthy wearing a green shorts suit and sanding on a shipping table in a warehouse
Emily McCarthy stands in the new warehouse on Victory Drive, where she and her team fulfill orders.

“It’s really about creating an environment for people to come together, share memories, learn things and spend time together.” 

— Emily McCarthy

When she founded her business in 2009, she focused on custom client work before eventually launching an online retail shop which has grown from her home office to an 8-year brick-and-mortar stint on Abercorn Street and selling wholesale to nearly 400 retail locations around the country. In 2023 alone, the company produced over 400 original styles and sold more than 67,600 pieces, including the top-selling Poppy shirt. Named for McCarthy’s father, the signature style has sold more than 23,200 pieces alone in the brand’s history. And this June, McCarthy moves into her sparkling new, renovated, 14,000-square-foot headquarters on Victory Drive. 

While the brand carries her name, McCarthy has built a dedicated and loyal team of 25 employees and counting who, in turn, help carry the load.

McCarthy hired her longest-standing employee, Susannah Downer, in 2016. A college student studying education at the time, Downer was initially hired as a nanny for McCarthy’s daughter, Lillian. Downer recalls being enamored by McCarthy and her designs. She even found herself working on her days off to help complete shipping, count inventory and package new items. By the time graduation rolled around, Downer couldn’t see herself anywhere else. She asked McCarthy for a job. 

Group of women in bright clothing in a warehouse
Top Row (From Left): Lucy Batchelor, wholesale regional account manager; Laken York, director of merchandising; Jacie Middlebrooks, brand stylist; Mariana Reyes, Shoppe sales associate; Sarah Morgan Curry, intern; Ally Burke, inventory and e-commerce operations assistant. Bottom Row (From Left): Halle Hoyt, inventory and e-commerce operations manager; Laura Anne Lewis, director of marketing; Ashley Ann Howell, wholesale manager; Stacy Glazier, Shoppe sales associate; Susannah Downer, Shoppe manager; Julia Barrett, wholesale operations manager; Emily McCarthy, owner and designer; Lois Thigpen, bookkeeper; Tricia Howard, Shoppe sales associate; Grace Ann Wooten, Shoppe sales associate; Jordan Pearson, lead Shoppe sales associate.

“I didn’t even know what to tell her to do when she showed up,” McCarthy says. “I just knew I needed help.” 

Downer credits McCarthy with teaching her about how to be a leader in action. “She works with every employee. She’ll clean, take out the trash and help with our floor sets. Her work ethic is something I’ve always admired about her,” Downer says. 

Fellow employees echo Downer. “Emily instills confidence and creativity in us,” says Laura Anne Lewis, director of marketing. She loves a wild idea, but [she ensures] we have the confidence to make a plan, tell her how we’re going to do it and execute that plan.” 

As a mentor, McCarthy also encourages her employees to work through problems on their own. “My favorite advice someone ever gave me for managing employees was when people come to you with a question, put the question back on them. Force them to do the critical thinking and find a resolution,” she says. 

Fashion sketches and material swatches on a drafting table
Fashion sketches and material swatches on a drafting table

McCarthy also maintains a growth mindset. Indeed, the company experienced a 31% increase in sales in the first quarter of 2024 compared to 2023. Director of Merchandising Laken York says that with this growth, McCarthy is flexible in giving her staff opportunities to explore other creative avenues. “I started as a production manager designing and making all the monograms, cocktail napkins and gift items. Over time, I was able to show that I wanted to be involved in our clothing line, and here I am.” 

“Obviously she’s done something right, because she’s getting us into a much larger space!” Downer adds.

That space is the latest evolution of the Emily McCarthy brand. She purchased a former car center at 2237 Victory Drive for $2.4 million in 2023. With the help of Lynch Associates Architects, JTVS Builders, Inc. and Kelly Caron Designs, the building is being transformed into the Emily McCarthy headquarters complete with a storefront, warehouse, offices and even a wine bar. McCarthy describes the spot as the brand’s “big girl space,” saying the vision is to create a colorful and elevated spot that better matches the brand’s growth and potential. Tapping Caron, who is known for her vibrant Lowcountry aesthetic, was a natural fit. 

Woman modeling clothing
Models strut in McCarthy’s “Art of Fashion” show at Telfair Museums’ Jepson Center in April 2023. // Courtesy Emily McCarthy
A woman modeling a bright pink shorts jumper
A woman modeling a dress with a gold star design

“She works with every employee. She’ll clean, take out the trash and help with our floor sets. Her work ethic is something I’ve always admired about her.” 

— Susannah Downer, Shoppe manager

Caron and McCarthy worked side by side to develop an aesthetic for the shop, focusing on the brand’s signature kelly green, gold insignia and other punchy hues. “It was up to me to pull from the furniture and material world to complement that energy,” Caron says. 

Since McCarthy’s vibrant clothing line should remain the star of the shop, Caron sprinkled in some of the brand’s classic patterns — bold cheetah spots, colorful prints and coastal botanicals — in unexpected places such as the wall coverings and lampshades. “We’re bringing the fashion world into the interior side, so everything is full circle,” says Caron.

The Joy Club, a wine bar and event space, rounds out the retail space. “It’s really about creating an environment for people to come together, share memories, learn things and spend time together,” says McCarthy — whose middle name is Joy. 

Caron adds she is extremely proud to be working alongside McCarthy and company on the project. “She could have picked anyone,” Caron says. “She’s Emily McCarthy!” 

Emily McCarthy Savannah magazine cover

Find this feature and so much more in Savannah magazine’s May/June 2024 “Leading Ladies” issue.