Letter Love

Bethesda Magazine May 29, 2018

Whyte House Monograms in Chevy Chase, plus the latest in local beauty treatments

By Sarah Zlotnick

Debbie McCarthy Whyte embroiders blankets, clothes—you name it—at her Chevy Chase store

After running Whyte House Monograms out of her basement, Debbie McCarthy Whyte opened a shop for her business about a year ago.

It all started with sports equipment. In 1996, Silver Spring native Debbie McCarthy Whyte had three kids playing sports—and they could not stop losing their gear.

“It made me crazy,” Whyte says. “I thought if I could get their names on their bags, the bags might come back home again.”

And so the idea that led to Whyte House Monograms was born. Now, using state-of-the-art embroidery machines, Whyte adds personalized designs—from simple block serif initials to elaborate family crests—to blankets, cosmetics cases, baby clothes and more. (She also has a machine to emboss acrylic pieces such as soap dishes; an outside partner etches her glass decanters and champagne flutes.) Until recently, she monogrammed anywhere from 15 to 50 pieces a day in the basement of her home in the Kenwood neighborhood of Chevy Chase. When the opportunity arose in May 2017 to “pop up” for a month in the former Christian Dior boutique space in The Collection at Chevy Chase, she went for it. One year later, she has a permanent lease for her inviting bright-white storefront on Wisconsin Avenue’s poshest retail corridor. She and eight part-time employees help customers choose from a variety of gifts in the store or add a personalization to their own items.

Whyte’s love for all things initials began long before she turned it into a full-time job. “I don’t know if it was the era I grew up in, but everyone had [monogrammed items],” she says. “But I was one of nine [siblings], so I didn’t.” When it came time for her own children, Whyte knew the opposite would be true. She picked her daughter’s name—Morgan McCarthy Whyte—precisely for the monogram. Done in script in traditional monogram style, “MWM” is considered one of the most elaborate—and thereby most beautiful—initial sets.

Whyte, 60, began her business by doing monogramming jobs for friends on a standard Sears sewing machine before buying a commercial monogramming machine. She grew her customer base by participating in as many as 40 charity shows per year at local schools. Eventually, the other White House came calling: Whyte has monogrammed pillows for the residence, the robe Vice President Joe Biden gave to Ellen DeGeneres for her 57th birthday in 2015, and, most recently, the FLOTUS cap Melania Trump wore to visit Hurricane Harvey victims.

(The Cool Way to Monogram)

When it comes to positioning, “anywhere but the left chest is cool now,” Whyte says. These days, clients mostly ask for monograms on the tails and upper arms of shirts, and along the back bottom of athletic shorts. They’re not always asking for initials. Inspired by U.S. Olympic skier Mikaela Shiffrin’s Super Bowl commercial, the acronym A.B.F.T.T.B.—always be faster than the boys—is one of Whyte’s most popular requests for girls sports equipment.

5471-E Wisconsin Ave., Chevy Chase, 301-657-5073, whytehousemonograms.com



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