Friday, August 12, 2016

The MacKenzie-Childs Barn Sale


I'll start with how a girl from Pittsburgh became a fan of MacKenzie-Childs. There isn't a Neiman Marcus in my city and from what I can surmise, there is only one MacKenzie-Childs retailer in all of western PA-- Glassworks, a small shop in Shady Side, that I've never been.

I discovered the brand accidentally a few years ago, while watching the (now canceled) TLC show Four Houses. I loved that show! It featured 4 home owners (all strangers) competing against each other on who had the best home. Each house usually contrasted dramatically in architectural design and decor from the previous abode. It was typical for the likes of a modern, contemporary house to be compared to a traditional colonial, a luxury high rise condo and/or a quaint log cabin. After touring each house, the home owners voted on whose place had the most panache. The episode that I'm calling upon highlighted the eccentric Victoria MacKenzie-Childs' ferry boat house in the New York City area. I was in awe of how irreverent this woman was-- a true character! When I went to research more about her professional background, I discovered that her charming decor was actually a well-known force in the home furnishing world. I was instantly a fan.

Richard & Victoria MacKenzie-Childs in front of the Aurora property.
After receiving the MacKenzie-Childs catalog in the mail and admiring many pieces from afar, I began noticing the famous courtly check print in celebrity homes from the Kardashians to the housewives of New Jersey (spoiler alert: Caroline Manzo was at the Barn Sale). I made mental notes of the things I wanted for my own house. One problem? The prices were steep and without seeing the designs in person, I felt a disconnect. When I learned that MacKenzie-Childs holds an annual barn sale at their Aurora, New York headquarters, my heart soared. Here was an opportunity to score some of the possessions I had been coveting at a discounted price and a chance for a fun road trip! It felt like kismet that Pittsburgh was within a reasonable driving distance to the Barn Sale. But for the past 4 years, summer would come and go. Excuses were made and I never made it to Aurora; that is, until now! One of my girlfriends recently moved to State College, PA. She loves a good road trip as much as I do and was eager to furnish her new house. It was decided. We would make a weekend of shopping and wine tasting along the world-renowned Finger Lakes region. I had never been to this part of the country and was excited to cross it off my list of places to visit.

Since I've never been to the MacKenzie-Childs Barn Sale, I did a bit of research prior to my journey. I was surprised to find that people from all over the country flock to small town Aurora for the annual event. Apparently, MacKenzie-Childs is highly popular in California and Texas. 50-80% off high-end items that rarely go on sale must be enough to send shoppers into a frenzy. I heard tales of people who camped out to secure their place in line but figured it was an exaggeration. The sale runs from Thursday-Sunday so I planned for a Friday afternoon arrival. I presumed that would be an okay time to show up. "How bad could it be?" I thought to myself. I thought wrong.

I had never been to this part of my home state before. I absolutely love the mountains so I appreciated every mile of the drive.
After a few hours on the road, traveling the scenic route from central PA to upstate New York, we arrived to the sale around 3 pm. There was more cars in the country field turned makeshift parking lot than I had seen at professional sporting events; except this time around there was no tailgaters with beer cans. It was all middle-aged white women with shopping carts full of marked down kitchenware. It was a blazing 95 degrees and the sun felt like it was out to steal my soul. The line to get in? 4 hours long. "Good luck!" was the message I received from one elderly woman as I entered the never-ending queue. I was completely disheartened. There isn't a tea pot in the world that would make me stand in line for that long, sober, in the Summer's sweltering heat and humidity. I didn't even have on sunblock. I'd rather pay full price and order my things online. I've never waited that long for anything and wasn't about to lose all sense of dignity at 30-years-old. At this juncture, it would have taken longer to stand waiting to get into the sale than it did to drive there from another state.

The MacKenzie-Child estate and studios are picturesque.
The "sane" alternative? My friend and I made a game plan to come back the following morning (Saturday) at dawn to stake our place in line. With doors set to open at 8 am, at least we would beat the heat. If you know me, you know that I'm nocturnal and to get up before the sun rises while on vacation requires a major commitment. But I came to this place for a reason and I wasn't going to leave without my damn discounted designer home decor!

The MacKenzie-Childs grounds in Aurora, New York are absolutely beautiful. 
When we got to the Barn Sale the next morning it wasn't quite dawn (too many drinks at the local pub the night before) but it was a respectable 6:45 am. I had not been that proud of myself in months. I hoped and prayed that the line wouldn't be once again overwhelmed by senile squatters. We got there just in the nick of time. At 7, the line was only about an hour long. By 7:15 am, the line instantly swelled, leaving patrons waiting a few hours to get inside. We had made it by only a few minutes and I felt like I won the lottery.

The line to get into the MacKenzie-Childs Barn Sale stretches to the road by 7:30 am.
Once inside the tents, I was overwhelmed by how much merchandise there was! If you're a MacKenzie-Childs lover, this place is like nirvana. Everything from basic napkins and straws to ceramics and even furniture-- all decently marked down as advertised. I'm admittedly spoiled when it comes to insider discounts, so to me, it's not really a fantastic deal unless it's at least 80% off. Not many items were that well-priced but overall, the selection was good. One thing that did disappoint me was discovering that a lot of the MacKenzie-Childs products are no longer handmade on-site in Aurora. The ceramics are generally higher quality and still crafted in New York. The enamel ware is much more affordable but mass-produced overseas. I set a budget for my shopping spree and quickly realized at this stage in my life, my money stretched farther in the enamel sale barn. In hindsight, I do wish I would have picked up something from the ceramic collection but there wasn't anything in my budget that I felt justified the price point, especially knowing that the same look could be found for much cheaper in the enamel material.

Photo Courtesy: Mountain Breaths Blog

The only thing I can compare the maniacal crowds who show up to the MacKenzie-Childs Barn Sale is to those who camp out in front of Wal-Mart on Black Friday. But this group of gals is far more classy and civilized. I didn't witness any brawls over the last $90 courtly check faux pumpkin (sadly, I missed out on the smallest size and felt it wasn't even worth the discounted price). If you're bothered by crowds, the amount of organized chaos happening within the tents can be daunting. On my way out of the parking lot on Friday, I witnessed one shopper, a woman who appeared to be in her late forties, loading a Mercedes SUV with the help of, wait for it, eight assistants. She had more boxes than could probably fit comfortably in her large vehicle with Massachusetts license plates. I wondered what her MacKenzie-Childs mansion might look like on the cape and if she was also in the market to adopt a 30-year-old redhead. "Probably an ebay power seller," a fifty-something solo shopper said to me as I gazed in awe of what I was witnessing.

As a member of the first group let in on Saturday morning, I was able to make my way through the tents at an accelerated pace. I seemingly made it to the check-out in record time as there was no additional wait to get to the register (note: I heard from other shoppers that you can sometimes wait an additional hour or more in line just to pay for your things). I was once again pleased with my performance. I managed to get into the sale within a reasonable time frame, find most of the things I wanted, stay under budget and get out in record time! My friend and I had an afternoon of wine tasting planned and boy were we ready for the booze. I discreetly asked the young girl who rang me up what the highest amount of money she saw spent so far was. An unfathomable $15,000 was the answer. I wondered if it was the same woman I had seen the day before. But from the looks of the shopping carts all around the Barn Sale, it seemed that this sort of figure was not out of the ordinary. I pondered my life decisions and headed toward the wineries.

Items Purchased:

  • Courtly Check Enamel Tea Kettle, This was probably the item I wanted the most as it really makes such a difference in a kitchen's overall vibe. $52.50/2 quart kettle.
  • Courtly Check Enamel Deep Container, I was happy to find this. I talked a few other women into buying these as well for its versatility. It could be repurposed for a number of uses. $22.
  • Courtly Check Enamel Salt & Pepper Shakers, I thought these would look nice in the kitchen along with my tea kettle. $25.
  • Courtly Check Pup Placemat, This is a large mat that is perfect for Ireland's feeding station. Again, another affordable way to tie in the courtly theme into your kitchen without breaking the bank. $14.
  • Courtly Check 1" Ribbon, I plan to use this ribbon for various DIY projects- vases, pumpkins, etc. The ribbon is the most affordable way to bring the MacKenzie-Childs scheme into your home. $15.
  • Courtly Check Paper Napkins, I wanted to get cocktail napkins but didn't have the energy to sort through the large bins. I was satisfied with the full size napkins and plan to use them as display. If I knew how to skillfully decoupage, these could also come in handy for pumpkin DIYs. $4.48/pack of 20.
  • Courtly Check Straws, This was one of the highest items on my wish list. I'm a big fan of straws and love these for my bar cart! $2.13/box of 25.
  • Coffee Table Book: The Way We Live With the Things We Love, I was happy to come across a small section of books for sale within the tents. If you know me, you know how much I love coffee table books and this one was actually on my Pinterest Wish List. Great price at only $13.50.

Regrets: Not having the space in my suitcase (or my wallet) to bring back larger items like the cheese platter, three-tiered sweets stand, trays, broom, furniture, and those elusive faux pumpkins. I also didn't score a ceramic coffee mug.

Pro Tips: Get there early. Really early. Before 7 am. Be prepared to stand in line for extended periods of time so dress appropriately and remember to stay hydrated. Light food, drinks and even alcohol is sold near the line. Items are constantly being restocked so chances are, even if you wait until Saturday, most of the items on your wish list will still be there.

Where to Stay: The charming hotel on the lake in Aurora was booked so we stayed at a fairly nice Inn in nearby Auburn. Not far away from the Barn Sale and relatively close to the wineries.

Will I Go Again: I'd absolutely do it over but I'll probably give it a few years and maybe stay along Seneca Lake where there are more wineries and distilleries. It was a fun trip and as a now devoted MacKenzie-Childs fan, I will be back for my big ticket ceramic items!

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Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States
I'm living life in beautiful Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I hold a journalism degree from West Virginia University. I have worked in television news, fashion marketing, PR, and cosmetic sales. My love for writing and sharing with the world my various passions is strong. One of my many ambitions is to be published and continue creating in the fields of digital and print media, literature and film. In my free time, I enjoy listening to music, going to concerts, reading, following Pittsburgh sports and traveling as often as possible. Some of my favorite things include beauty, style, architecture, books, tarot and astrology, thrifting and my shih-tzu, Ireland. I’m engaged to the love of my lifetimes and we look forward to starting our next chapter together. If you have any questions or comments, I would love to hear from you!