It’s pretty rare that something can surprise you these days—with the internet, TV, Insta, there’s so much publicity surrounding people and products. So when you find a hidden gem, like I did recently when visiting the MacKenzie-Childs offices and production facility, you’re in disbelief for a moment about how you never knew a place like this existed. It was an even bigger blow to my ego because I went to Syracuse University and it’s only an hour away.
Arriving in the tiny town—and I mean tiny, people frequently joke that if you blink you’ll miss it—of Aurora, New York I was instantly smitten by the one main road and the charming shops and restaurants that surround The Aurora Inn. There was a market where you could pick up freshly made sandwiches, a winery that sold not only vino but all of the perfect complements to it (including a favorite of mine-Cheeky Monkey’s tomato oil) and the Fargo Bar & Grill, a pub/ restaurant with maybe some of the best buffalo wings I’ve ever tasted.
The crown jewel of the downtown area though is The Aurora Inn, which is right on the shores of Cayuga Lake. Not only is it impeccably decorated, but the furniture is comfy too (not an easy feat) and the crackling fireplaces and selection of game boards available make you feel like you’re right at home. My room had a beautiful view of the water and a gas fireplace that was put on for me every night before I got back from dinner. Each morning I opened the door to a basket of homemade muffins and hot tea. Basically I told my husband that there was a serious danger of me not coming back home and staying there as long as I possibly could.
The Inn’s restaurant was fabulous too, with a creative and ever-rotating menu made with local ingredients. I sampled tasty appetizers like a tomato tart, stuffed dates, a well-rounded cheese plate and main courses like mouth-watering beef tenderloin or their famous scallops. And wait for it, they had a homemade cherry chocolate ice cream sundae for dessert. I’ll pause for a minute to let you make your travel plans.
MacKenzie-Child’s HQ was another huge surprise. Of course I knew about their classic and playful patterns and cult-like following, but I had no idea that they still made some of their products in the United States and that so many talented artisans touched each piece that ends up in someone’s home.
There is no long conveyor belt just stamping out plates. Excess clay from molds is shaved and smoothed by hand, pieces are hand-dipped in glazes and they’re all hand painted. Even their uniform, famous courtly check pattern is painted on by hand with no guides or stencils. It’s amazing and also incredibly soothing to watch. The precision and attention to detail they have for each piece they make is astounding, and every artisan is trained for a year before they’re allowed to start producing hand painted pieces on their own.
Besides the production facility, the grounds were sprawling and beautifully landscaped, you’re able to see the lake from high up on the hill where the production facility and gift shop is. They’ve got geese and sheep as local residents in a little farm paddock and a community garden that is full of fragrant blooms, maintained by the employees. They even have hives where they make their own honey that gets passed out to everyone come holiday time. If you’re losing your mind from all of this attention to detail, prepare to have it blown.
Also, on the property is a farmhouse that is decked out from top to bottom in MacKenzie-Childs. Tiles, wallpaper, furnishings, even artwork is all MacKenzie-Childs. It’s three stories of opulent, over-the-top in the best way, MacKenzie-Childs goodness.
What stood out the most though, besides the quaint town, delicious food and beautiful products they produce, was how truly passionate each person was about the brand and what a special relationship the company has with the town of Aurora. The creative director mentioned that probably 300 of the towns roughly 500 residents are in some way, shape or form working with MacKenzie-Childs. Plus the tourism the production facility brings to the town can’t go unmentioned. Each year their barn sale is bananas. With almost 30,000 coming through, many of which camp out days ahead of time to score some sweet swag, all happily wait for hours in line to shop for their favorite and covert worthy merchandise.
I feel lucky to have gotten to experience this amazing town in upstate New York and I’m so happy I could share the details with you too. Book a trip, right now, don’t wait! They do public tours of this factory and the property so you can go see it too. And if you decide to stay at The Aurora Inn, tell them we sent you.
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