Barnett Brickner is the third generation to helm his family firm, Embee Sunshade, America’s leading maker of handmade umbrellas. Founded in 1933 by his grandfather Morris Brickner (hence Em-Bee) in Manhattan, Embee originally made conventional rain umbrellas. Morris switched to “sunbrellas” after World War II when the company moved to roomier premises in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where it crafts more than 20,000 umbrellas each year.
Embee’s client roster is an eclectic mix. Tory Burch custom-ordered pieces as window dressing for her preppy chic shops; Oprah Winfrey sent along nautical fabric to be used on a pair of matching shades. But the biggest challenge for Barnett so far came from Disney, which tapped him to design beach umbrellas where Mickey’s ears popped up each time they were opened. Brickner shrugs: “It was only for a short-term use, so we worked it out.”