My Bucknell classroom experience was great, and working for Ray catapulted me into buying those flower shops.

Brian McCarthy '76

There is no arguing that the gerbera daisy is a happy flower — its intense and varied colors always brighten a room. As chief of America's largest brick-and-mortar florist, Brian McCarthy ’76 readily agrees about his favorite bloom.

The chairman of the McCarthy Group of Companies, with 38 flower shops nationwide, he began creating arrangements at age 8 for his father's store, Bud McCarthy's Bokay Shop in Dunmore, Pa. At Bucknell, McCarthy worked for Martin's Flowers, which was then owned by Raymond Irwin ’44, former director of personnel and placement at the University.

"After I graduated, I moved to Williamsport and bought my first flower shop at age 22. By the time I was 23, I had seven stores from Lock Haven to Wilkes-Barre. My Bucknell classroom experience was great, and working for Ray catapulted me into buying those flower shops. Since that time, we've moved into 13 states. We have a national footprint," says McCarthy, whose sisters, Linda McCarthy Flynn ’79 and Nancie McCarthy ’81, also are Bucknellians.

Pushing petals isn't his only entrepreneurial venture. When he was 25, McCarthy purchased a bankrupt taxi company in Williamsport, renamed it McCarthy Flowered Cabs and increased business by over 40 percent. The cab company eventually expanded to include taxi services in York, Scranton and Lock Haven, and McCarthy Flowered Cabs were even featured on NBC's The Office from 2006 to 2011.

His success as a small business owner prompted a call in 1992 by former Sen. Harris Wofford, D-Pa., to testify before Congress about health care and the minimum wage. McCarthy later met former President Bill Clinton and gave many speeches on Capitol Hill and at the White House regarding the Employment Security Act. "Flower shops aren't very political — we don't make noise, and we don't pollute. I guess I was a safe bet, and I was very fortunate that I could participate," he says.

Today, the McCarthy Group continues to grow, especially with the 2011 purchase of once bankrupt Bloody Point Golf Club on Daufuskie Island, located between Hilton Head, S.C., and Savannah, Ga. The golf course and resort, named after a particularly violent battle between colonists and the Yemassee Indians in the 1700s, is only accessible by boat.

"The golf course has been a really fun project the last three years. We entered a business we know nothing about, but we never say no. Our answer is: 'Yes, we can.'"

Posted July 2014