Locate Finger Lakes Business Journal

MacKenzie-Childs: An Iconic Brand Crafting One-of-a-Kind Products in the Finger Lakes

MacKenzie-Childs Head Quarters in Aurora, New York

MacKenzie-Childs Head Quarters in Aurora, New York

Locate Finger Lakes wants you to know why more than 26,000 people from across the globe will soon descend on the small village of Aurora, New York.

They are traveling to the Finger Lakes to claim some of the most coveted home furnishings in the world—made locally by MacKenzie-Childs.

The company’s highly anticipated annual Barn Sale will be held July 18-21 on its majestic 65-acre campus in Aurora. The sale is much more than a retail event—it’s a major tourism draw for the village of less than 1,000 people.

Devoted fans come to enjoy up to 80-percent-off discounts on MacKenzie-Childs handcrafted tableware, furniture, and home and garden accessories.

Last year, customers came from as far as Australia, England and Japan, and included visitors from nearly all 50 states. Area hotel rooms sell out, and the brand’s most loyal followers are known to camp out on the grounds the night before the sale starts.

The event is so big that MacKenzie-Childs hires 400 temporary workers to staff the sale, in addition to its 150 full-time employees in Aurora.

Individually-crafted pieces by Finger Lakes artisans

mackenzie-childs-courtly-check-tea-kettleMacKenzie-Childs is one of the world’s leading pottery manufacturers, best known for its signature Courtly Checks black and white checkerboard pattern.

Located on a former dairy farm overlooking Cayuga Lake, MacKenzie-Childs is perhaps one of the most iconic sites in the Finger Lakes.

“Our roots in Aurora-based pottery are important to our DNA and the community,” said John Ling, CEO of MacKenzie-Childs. “It keeps us connected to what is important.”

mackenzie-childs-boheme-coffee-tableThe company started in 1983, in a small studio in the basement of Wallcourt Hall, originally a dormitory for an all-girls prep school and now a 16-room guesthouse of the Inns of Aurora.

Today, its production studio is located in the dairy barn, where its pottery and furnishings are handmade and hand-painted by 50 talented artisans trained in age-old crafts.

The grounds, open to the public, are also home to a restored, MacKenzie-Childs furnished farmhouse that guests can tour, and one of the company’s two U.S. retail stores. The second is in New York City’s SoHo district.


With a nod to the property’s agricultural beginnings, there is a small herd of Scottish Highland cattle, dozens of birds roosting in the Chicken Palace, a duck pond, 1930s greenhouse, and sprawling gardens.

This scenery provides much of the design inspiration for MacKenzie-Childs products, all of which are bright, happy, colorful, creative—and original. No two pieces are identical. Each one bears the stamp or mark of the artisan who created it.

That ingenuity, spanning hundreds of products, is a key differentiator for the company.

“We have unique and recognizable designs with an aura of high-quality and luxury, in a wide range of categories and prices,” said Ling.


Pieces from the Patience Brewster nativity collection.

Last year, MacKenzie-Childs acquired the handcrafted collectibles brand Patience Brewster, created by the Skaneateles-based designer of the same name. The popular collection includes whimsical holiday ornaments and figurines.

Ling said MacKenzie-Childs is seeing rapid growth in sales of furniture, lighting and rugs. And more growth is on the horizon as the company prepares to launch products under its new candle division.

“We will be introducing a new line called Glow Home Apothecary this fall that will develop into a full line of year-round scented candles, tassels, lotions and soaps.”

Locally-made products sold around the world

MacKenzie-Childs products are sold in over a dozen countries around the world, at more than 500 luxury retailers. They include Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdales, Saks Fifth Avenue, Williams-Sonoma, Harrods in the UK, and a host of independent home retailers. MacKenzie-Childs also operates its own branded retail shops in Istanbul and Moscow, in addition to its Aurora and New York City stores.

Its multi-channel sales strategy—including direct-to-consumer catalog and online sales—has contributed to the company’s growth and success.

In addition to its Aurora headquarters, MacKenzie-Childs has a distribution center in Auburn that serves as its main shipping hub, and a warehouse in Union Springs that provides year-round storage and support for the annual Barn Sale.

The company’s unique design aesthetic—and the energetic spirit each product evokes—has earned it tremendous customer loyalty.

“We love that we offer a place for our wonderful and talented artisans to make things that bring joy and happiness to our customers,” said Ling, a former Crate and Barrel executive who was named CEO of MacKenzie-Childs in 2015.

MacKenzie-Childs is owned by parent company Aurora Brands. It was previously owned by Pleasant Rowland, an alumna of Wells College in Aurora and founder of the American Girl doll company. Today, Rowland owns the Inns of Aurora, including Wallcourt Hall where MacKenzie-Childs was born.

Now in its 36th year, MacKenzie-Childs continues to grow its business and its reputation as a premier design and manufacturing company known for American craftsmanship, quality, originality and fun.

“We are proud that we still produce our pottery and handmade and decorated furniture here in the USA,” said Ling.

And, in the Finger Lakes.

Watch this video featuring Creative Director Rebecca Proctor on what makes MacKenzie-Childs so unique:

The 2019 Barn Sale will be held July 18–21 from 8 am–6 pm at the company’s Aurora headquarters, 3260 State Route 90. For information, visit

Check out other business profiles published by Locate Finger Lakes Business Journal under the Index in the menu.


3260 State Route 90
Aurora, NY 13026

Krista Gleason is a contributor to the Locate Finger Lakes Business Journal. She is a freelance writer and owner of Gleason Writes in the beautiful Finger Lakes.

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