Monday, October 20, 2008

Day Trippin

B and I continued our fall excursions on Saturday with a day trip to Aurora, NY (home of Wells College). I’ve heard of people day-tripping to Aurora over the years, but it was never something I had thought too much about until Billy raved about it and said that he and Joe go every fall. Billy shares my love of all things creative, so I knew it would be a good recommendation. We went to the famous Mackenzie-Childs studio and production center, ate lunch at Pumpkin Hill Bistro, and roamed around the historic and newly renovated downtown.
Mackenzie-Childs was nothing like what B & I had expected, but for totally different reasons. B is a trooper and shares my love of travel, so he trusts that if I’ve set up a trip it’ll be something we’ll both enjoy, but I was unable to explain all week what exactly Mackenzie-Childs was. I mean, to be truthful, I really put in no effort whatsoever. This is how it went:
B – Wait, where are we going on Saturday??
S – Aurora.
B – Oh, that’s that little town up 34B?
S – Yeah. I’ve never been there, but it’s supposed to be a good little trip.
B – What did you say we’re going to do again? Something about dishes?
S – Yeah, we’re gonna go to the apple orchard, eat lunch at Pumpkin Hill Bistro and visit Mackenzie-Childs. It’s dishes – they’re world famous. I’m pretty sure they’re all really ugly and we’ll hate the designs, but it’s a big deal so we should visit before we move.
B – Ok, whatever.

So when we pulled into the palatial estate known as Mackenzie-Childs B immediately began freaking out:
B – What the HELL?! I thought you said we were going to see dishes!!?
S – Yeah, we are. This is where they make them.
B – Yeah, but this place is MASSIVE. There’s like ten outbuildings. I thought we were going to a little dish shop in downtown Aurora – this place is a Big Deal!

S – Yeah, I know, that’s why we’re here.

So then we went inside and I began freaking out. I honestly can’t explain it – the designs are very specific and once you see enough of them you’ll recognize a MC piece for the rest of your life, but they’re extremely whimsical and nothing that I would ever put in my home. But yet, I loved everything I saw. I didn’t love it in that way where I walk into West Elm, or any high end furnishings store, and want to buy every single piece, but I loved it just the same. I walked around in total awe, everything was so colorful and creative and just different from anything I’ve ever seen before. It was honestly the most inspired I’ve felt in years. Not to mention that the craftsmanship is flawless. The prices begin to make more sense once you see how much time and effort goes into every piece.
In addition to the large shop and the studio video, we toured the grounds and went on a guided tour of the Farmhouse. The Farmhouse was designed floor to ceiling in specially created MC pieces, furnishings, wall treatments, etc. as a B&B, but it has never been used as one. After seeing the house, I got a better understanding of how you could decorate your house in such a whimsical style and still have it look sophisticated. It was like an Alice in Wonderland house. Additionally, the architecture of the outbuildings was stunning. Nothing was left to chance and every small detail had been attended to.
After our stop at the “dish shop” we went for lunch and then headed downtown. Downtown is extremely small, yet restored to pristine, almost cinematic, conditions. And that brings us to the most interesting part of the day. I had heard that there was a huge controversy surrounding Aurora and its renovations, and then when we were walking around we saw a protest vehicle. It was parked on the street in downtown and covered with articles, facts, and quotes about how Pleasant Rowland has destroyed the town. The whole story is SO fascinating that I spent at least an hour on the computer reading all about it after we got home. I’ll give you the short version, but if you have time you should really read the links I’ll give you!
In 1983 Richard and Victoria Mackenzie-Childs started the company. In 2001 the company was near bankruptcy and they owed the bank 15.3M. To save the company a Wells alumna named Pleasant Rowland bought the company. (Pleasant invented the American Doll line and sold it to Mattel to $700M. Pleasant has money) After buying up MC, Pleasant decided that she would completely gut and restore downtown Aurora with brute force. The whole story has all kinds of great twists and turns and should definitely have been a Dateline special, and basically it’s all resolved now (because she got her way), but it was so interesting to see the town in the aftermath and know what it took to get it to that state. Enjoy!
Pleasant's Wikipedia Page

CNN article on the whole story

1 comment:

billy said...

Love the picture...I would like to point out that My dog-ter, Olivia, eats and drinks out of MC enamel ware. Specifically--the Buttercup pattern.

One of my greatest indulgences as a grown 'Mo who once smoked was using a lovely MC bowl as an ash tray. It was truly decadent. It is still used as such on the porch. I believe, that even if you are doing something nasty, you really should do it with style!

Glad you enjoyed your day! How did you like the restaurant?

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