The businesswomen of Drayton Tower share a roof — and each other’s successes
Photography by KATIE McGEE
SUPPORTING WOMEN-OWNED BUSINESSES is easy at Drayton Tower, the 12-story federal landmark building at 102 E. Liberty St. On the ground floor, nine different spots are owned by nine different, exceedingly cool women.
When I made a visit to Drayton Tower to better understand their overall ethos, the love and camaraderie was apparent. I saw them popping into each other’s businesses, learned of different crossover events and even saw an ad for one business in another business’s window.
“Every day, we’re visiting, patronizing or helping each other in some way,” says Allison Falkenberry, who owns Otium. “That’s what makes this lineup so interesting — we’re actually friends, so we’re truly invested in helping each other.”
For these so-called “Ladies of Liberty,” who share the name with friends Elizabeth Seeger and Mahala Lewis of Satchel, 4 E. Liberty St., being in one of the city’s tallest buildings means the sky’s the limit: In just a few short years, they’ve reinvigorated Drayton Tower’s ground floor with a mix of retail, fitness, a restaurant, a salon and more. What glass ceiling?
ALLISON FALKENBERRY // Otium
Falkenberry, a former New York publishing and media executive who still works as a crisis communications consultant, was the first Lady of Liberty to arrive at Drayton Tower with the opening of Otium wellness studio in 2018. “When I wasn’t working, I was studying mindfulness, epigenetic and neuroscience fields,” she says. “That’s what led me to open the studio here.”
She describes the space as a “boutique yoga and fitness studio with a mission to ‘support the good.’ That intentionality is reflected within artfully designed classes and a welcoming space for good movement, good music and good mood.” otiumstudios.com
JANE FISHEL // Savoy Society
“Savoy Society is a neighborhood cocktail bar and restaurant where people of all walks of life can come enjoy themselves,” says Jane Fishel, the second of the nine to plant roots at the tower (she co-owns the bar with partner Matt Garappolo). Its ambience — Fishel calls it “soft, psychedelic tiki” — pairs a purely vinyl soundtrack, carefully curated by a crew who love to sing and dance along, with small plates like smoked salmon and avocado flatbread and, of course, cocktails. Martinis by the pitcher are on the menu alongside mocktails, too, but if Fishel had to pick, the Omaha, Nebraska, native says it’s an easy choice: “A gin sonic and a shot of Fernet Branca.” savoysociety.com
MICHELLE PETH // BEETTAN
When Michelle Peth’s younger sister experienced some scary skin cancer issues (don’t worry – she’s OK!), Peth made it her mission to create a natural product that would give people a sun-kissed look without any sun damage. Her organic spray tan company, BeetTan, spotlights a not-so-secret ingredient: beets.
When Peth first began her business, “people around Savannah called me ‘the little spray tan girl,’” adding, “I think they still do, actually.” But the moniker belies Peth’s prowess: She’s also a realtor with Vantosh Realty Group, working under managing broker Beth Vantosh, who is responsible for the Drayton Tower listings. “I enjoy the way [Beth] curates business, and I respect her as a woman in this business. And knowing that I’m a woman in business, she comes to me, like, ‘Hey, I know you know all these other women,” Peth says. The result? Six other women opened spots in the building. beettan.com
JEN PAZSAMANT // Pima Boutique
The first business Peth brought in was Pima Boutique, owned by Paszamant, who was one of her first spray tan clients. Paszamant, who moved to Savannah from New Jersey during high school, has close connections to the space. “I went to St. Vincent’s, right around the corner from the store,” she says. She then studied graphic design at Savannah College of Art & Design, knowing all along she wanted to one day open her own clothing boutique — one that offered “affordable, trendy clothing for all different age groups.”
Pima’s Liberty Street storefront features a mix of styles, from soft colors and flowy fabrics to more fitted and even retro looks. The overall effect is fresh and feminine. pimaboutique.com
EMILY BARGERON // Mamie Ruth
Next came Mamie Ruth and M. Liz Jewelry, two businesses occupying the same space. “They were good friends of mine who supported me and my business in the beginning when they were located at the other end of Liberty Street,” Peth says.
Mamie Ruth is a vivid world of brightly colored clothing and accessories, inspired by the music festival scene where Emily Bargeron got her start. “I went to my first music festival in college and fell in love with the culture,” she says. She felt at home among the colorful patterns and eccentric garments and wanted to be a part of that world. Bargeron first started selling T-shirts at concerts “just so I could go to more shows.” She began sewing entire outfits to sell at festivals and was a walking advertisement for her own work.
She eventually parlayed her experience and fashion degree into three stores: Mamie Ruth, named for her grandmother and now located in Drayton Tower; East & Up, which sells vintage clothing and accessories; and Starland Strange, an experiential retail collaboration with co-owner Marguerite Seckman. mamieruth.com
MARY LIZ CRAFT // M. Liz Jewelry
Mary Liz Craft was raised in Akron, Ohio, and went to SCAD for Metals and Jewelry. Upon graduation, she went to work for ZIA Couture Jewelry. “[ZIA owner Zia Sachedina] was a huge mentor,” Craft says. “I learned so much from him about running a business, both in retail and production.” To create her own jewelry line, spotlighting dynamic yet classic pieces, all formed from meticulously sourced materials, Craft found early inspiration at home. “My dad owns his own company,” she says, “and I watched him go from a one-man operation to having hundreds of employees over the years.” Craft describes her mother as “super creative” — “We spent lots of our childhood engrossed in arts and crafts projects, and she made all our clothing as kids.”
The women in Drayton Tower offer inspiration, too: “Meeting the community of businesswomen in Savannah has been one of the biggest blessings of my life and my career,” she says. “I feel like we are all so successful because of each other. We are there to help each other through the bad patches and to celebrate all the victories.” mlizdesigns.com
COURTNEY BELL // Fern Soapery
When a small space attached to Otium opened, Peth needed to find a business that would match its vibe. The exquisite Fern Soapery, owned by Courtney Bell, was a perfect fit.
“Fern Soapery is deeply rooted in two values: using clean, botanical ingredients and maintaining a high standard of eco-consciousness,” says Bell, who describes herself as a forward-thinking creative who is always learning. “I studied as a chemistry student for three years, and I’ve been formulating and making skin care products for six years now,” she says.
Her soaps may smell good, but they do good, too. As of press time, Bell’s business is “transforming into a bath and body refillery to further support our community’s need for clean, low/zero-waste personal care products.” fernsoapery.com
AMANDA BRYANT // Les Proper
When a spacious property on the Drayton Street side of the building became available, Peth immediately thought of her friend of 20 years, hairstylist Amanda Bryant. After eight months of renovations, Bryant and Les Proper salon moved in. The salon also houses Peth’s BeetTan and Emma Proulx Fischer’s Bad Witch Nails, plus a gallery with rotating works from local artists.
Les Proper isn’t Bryant’s first foray at Drayton Tower, either. “I’ve been a stylist for 14 years and was previously at another salon that was also once located in Drayton Tower,” she says. When her long-term friend Peth mentioned the opening, Bryant decided to venture out on her own. “The space is meant to be fun, laid-back, clean and comfortable,” says Bryant. Its name is a bit tongue-in-cheek, too, says Bryant. “It’s not conforming to society or what is considered appropriate.”
EMMA PROULX FISCHER // Bad Witch Nails
A fashion-loving bad witch from Brooklyn, Fischer, who graduated from SCAD, was “always into really tiny canvases.” Nails — tiny blank canvases, as it turns out — “ended up being the perfect intersection of art and fashion for me,” Fischer says. “I love how nails can act as an accessory to someone’s whole look.”
The name “Bad Witch” is not only a play on the NSFW rhyming phrase, but also a nod to Fischer’s “nerdy obsessions like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Harry Potter” (she started out by painting literature-inspired artwork on her own nails). Fischer has been doing nails since 2017, but was thrilled to move into Les Proper in October 2021. Her wildly creative gel manicures are miniature works of art. badwitchnails.com