Five Tenets to Being Happy and Successful
By Michelle Vasquez
Emily Carpenter, aka Em, a San Antonio native, wears many hats: a mother of two, daughter, wife, and entrepreneur, with five thriving restaurants as part of the Carpenter Carpenter hospitality group. Despite always going at full speed, Em’s presence is characterized by a quiet demeanor, always accompanied by a warm smile and a twinkle in her eye. It’s no surprise that she and her husband, Houston Carpenter, have left a mark on the local food scene, offering a range of seafood-based concepts at their establishments, including Little Em’s Oyster Bar, Up Scale Southtown, Restaurant Claudine, Go Fish Wine Bar and Nineteen Hyaku.
The genesis of their culinary journey began with Little Em’s, inspired by a memorable evening in a Parisian oyster bar. Emily and Houston envisioned transplanting that charming Parisian essence to their Southtown neighborhood but with a unique touch. “We saw a gap in fine dining hospitality that we believed seafood could fill,” Emily shared. “The experience was so fantastic that we decided to expand, and now, here we are with five restaurants!”
Their secret sauce for success extends beyond just wonderful food; their properties also have a distinct ambiance. Little Em’s evokes the spirit of an East Coast oyster bar adorned in pastel pinks and bright whites. Emily vividly describes the experience: “You can sit down, be warmly greeted by our staff, offered some bubbles, and indulge in crisp East Coast oysters on the half shell, and that’s just the beginning.”
The warmth and hospitality of Em and her family resonate in every detail, from the signature Little Em’s martini at Up Scale to Restaurant Claudine, named in honor of Houston’s grandmother. Their commitment to creating a family-owned atmosphere is palpable, especially when you spot Em strolling down the street with her daughter Rosie on one hip and Birdie on the other. Their unwavering dedication mirrors the excellence they bring to their businesses.
When asked about the unique aesthetic of her restaurants, particularly the use of pink at Little Em’s, Em sums it up in one word: happiness. “Our places should be happy and should also bring joy to others. In my line of work, it’s more than just taking orders; it’s about crafting an experience. When you radiate kindness, everyone can feel it.”
Balancing her roles as a wife, mother, and business owner may seem like a Herculean task, but for Em, it’s a labor of love. When questioned about her role as a role model, she humbly responds that everyone harbors a role model deep within. “My most cherished role is that of a mother. Expressing my love for my girls is beyond words; it’s simply indescribable.”
As a mother and role model to her daughters, Em imparts invaluable life lessons—five tenets for a meaningful, happy, and successful life and business:
1. “Be your best self.”
2. “Strive to improve today over yesterday.”
3. “Embrace adaptability in the face of change.”
4. “Choose your partners wisely.”
5. “Live with intention.”
Em’s guiding principles emphasize intentionality, highlighting the importance of purposeful actions in personal and professional realms. “In the world of hospitality, our mission is to bring happiness. We prioritize the well-being of our staff, knowing that they, in turn, will ensure the happiness of our guests and, ultimately, the community we serve.”
Her establishments are not merely restaurants; they are integral parts of the vibrant Southtown and Pearl communities. Her passion is evident in everything she does, from setting unwavering standards for herself and her family to her relentless commitment to the hospitality industry. She engages with people daily, provides employment opportunities, and extends her generosity to friends and strangers alike, all in pursuit of simplicity and happiness.
Em sets a high bar in every facet of her life, personally and professionally. Her legacy is one of exceptional standards, boundless hospitality, and the power of spreading joy in every interaction.