Wednesday, September 1, 2010


I'm conflicted about this interesting, yet somehow too charming of a place. MacKenzie-Childs has grown into a major business over the years. If I'm not mistaken, its big first break was when Saks decided to buy the line, which was years ago, in the late 1980s or early 1990s, when the MacKenzie-Childs brand was still actually owned and produced by the MacKenzie-Childs family. When the handcrafted ceramics were still being made in their home studio to the south of Aurora (their home studio that my brother, in fact, spent a summer helping to build).

After the Saks break, things got bigger rather quickly, and the Mackenzie-Childs relocated their studio to the beautiful property where it remains now, just to the north of Aurora. I'm fuzzy on the details after this, but basically they found themselves overextended at some point, and they got an offer from Pleasant Rowland, the creator of the American Girl corporation and alumna of Aurora's Wells College, who was reinventing all manner of Aurora-area businesses and buildings to the great delight or horror of the locals, depending on who it is you're speaking to.

The MacKenzie-Childs accepted her offer. They sold to Pleasant Rowland, and as Pleasant does, she turned the place around. She grew it, and grew it, and changed it. That's what happens, I realize, but somehow when I visit now, it's not quite the same. The quirky restaurant is gone, and the 'Farmhouse' is now available to tour, showcasing, "MacKenzie-Childs designs in a variety of traditional interiors... each one a design inspiration."

This bothers me. I used to date a boy who lived here. It was a big old beautiful farmhouse, it's true, but it was a normal house. It was lived in, it got messy. It was not some idyllic, staged, museum for goodness sake.

But I digress. Or do I? I guess that's what bothers me about the whole kit and kaboodle. It is just too perfect and too dramatized. The setting is too faultlessly bucolic. "It's just not real, people, do not believe!" I wanted to yell out to the shoppers in the showroom.

But yet it is real, is it not? It is located, "On a tranquil Victorian farm overlooking Cayuga Lake" and the 65-acre farm does have a "winding brick driveway" and "a duck pond" and "a meadow where a herd of Scottish Highland cattle graze."

But it is also an illusion. A clever way to justify those absurd prices. Or so it seems to me.
Don't get me wrong. Their pieces are all handmade, and this, of course, does drive up the cost of anything and everything. And I certainly do think that all the artisans working at MacKenzie-Childs should be making a decent wage. Plus the products are whimsical and unique, but I just feel that the marketing ploy is somehow, oh, I don't know, such fluff. Yes, yes, that's what marketing is. I know this. I guess my problem is that I'm having a hard time with the fact that my hometown is being marketed. I'm not expressing my self well here, I realize. I did warn you, didn't I, that I'm conflicted?
Let me show you just how conflicted.
I love this sink
almost as much as I love this bathroom floor

But this bench/loveseat? Not so much. I mean it does look like you're in Aurora, but do I really want to sit my ass down on it?

But she is lovely, and my girls just could not get enough of her and her project. In fact, my 6 year old declared that she would get a job here doing just this when she was old enough. (Hope you have room, Nonnie).

And this?

Well it's a little too much for me, both in style and financially. (You should really check out the prices on the website).

But I guess that about sums it up....Mackenzie-Childs? It's a little too much for me.


Me, You, or Ellie said...

Well, I've never heard of MacKenzie-Childs so I do not have a strong opinion on their modernization, but I do SO love that bathroom floor. If my bathroom floor looked like that, I'd pity any fool who messed it up with bathroom dirtiness of any kind.

Pretty willow trees, though!



Me, You, or Ellie said...

I love the bathroom floor and the sink basin. Really. It would look great in my house. Maybe they can expand into New London? And Fort Davis?


Pat said...

And wouldn't I love to have your girl here!

You forgot to mention the $24 baby socks that crazy grandmothers buy for their 1 year old granddaughters (but only after they are marked down to $6.50).

Actually it is Neiman Marcus that carries MC plus MC had a store on
5th avenue in NYC. It was in Chapter 11 when Pleasant bought it to save the 200+ jobs for the locals.
Love, Mom

Cindy said...

They were obtained by Pleasant Rowland in a hostile takeover ad have since been purchased again. More changes. And not for the better. Today nearly EVERYTHING is made in China. The fabrics and trims are sub-par and common-place. Most of the farm and what remains is a ruse.
Its basically overpriced TJ Maxx ware nowadays. What a shame.

Kinga Wojdylo said...

I saw their stuff on TV and liked some pieces. I made a list of things I wanted purchase and than decided to order just a tray first to see the quality etc. To my surprise the tray was made in CHINA! I was shocked and disappointed. I thought everything is made in Aurora, NY. I dont mind paying $$$ for things are made in USA and are handcrafted but to buy overprice piece made in china prob. by a child is ridicules. I will never buy anything from this company. what a shame!

shadow said...

It's finally gotten to the point where I can purchase some of the products that I have been drooling over the past 6 years-but when I irdered my first piece and it said "made in China" I was so incredibly disappointed. It's like going back to florence, Italy after 25 years and now that I can afford some handmade italian shoes I find out the cobblers store I dreamed about returning to is no longer there but instead a shop that looks like it but the products are now made in China and "assembled" in Italy which brings the value of workmanship way down. What a bummer, I am so wishing they would have gone another avenue if the were stressing financially- I can't imagine how Mackenzie Childs must cringe to know that her name is associated with made in China products. Blow I don't really want to buy it anymore......

Anonymous said...

I think the prices are ridicules for almost everything. So I make my own. I do buy a few things when they go on "sale", still over priced. My friends and family can't tell what was made by me or MC. I would love to put my pieces on the net but I would be sued by MC for copyright infringement. If I did it would be called "Alice in Wonderland on Acid.