We were beyond excited when we learned that London’s renowned merchants Fortnum & Mason had decided to devote considerable space on their first floor to an installation of MacKenzie-Childs. In case you’ve never been there, the store is quite legendary, and the idea of having our designs in the same shop where the Queen gets her tea made us just unbelievably happy.
The official opening of the pop-up shop happened to coincide with my son Alexei’s spring break, so it provided the perfect opportunity to take him with me to London so he could finally see this fabulous place for himself. I was excited about the trip for so many reasons; it was a chance to return to my favorite city, and for me, a dream come true, to see our products displayed in a store I have always revered as the most beautiful in the world. Best of all, it would be Alexei’s first chance to visit there, and absorb firsthand a bit of its incredible history.
So about Fortnum & Mason in Piccadilly…the Queen actually refers to this treasure as her grocery store. I’m sure that conjures up an interesting image, but let me try and paint a more detailed picture for you. The ground floor is filled with handmade confections that turn treats and sweets from your wildest imagination into three dimensional reality. Glass jarred candies are named things like Toodle Pips, Potted Shrimp, Splendid Sweets, Rosey Apples, Licorice Bits & Bobs, Bouncing Babies, and Teddy Tots. Delicious biscuits line the shelves in tins that boast colorful art from a history of nearly 250 years.
Sales associates have a wealth of knowledge about every product, and their attention to each and every customer makes you feel like royalty. Everything in the store is perfectly curated and so very special; particularly fabulous are a range of bespoke products they will tailor-make just for you. A special restaurant can be found on each floor, as well as fine china, picnic hampers, special apparel, home furnishings and much more. They have their own beehives on the rooftop, and legend has it that the bees collect their pollen from the royal gardens at Buckingham Palace. We bought a jar of the Queen’s favorite honey and it is D I V I N E.
What I hadn’t expected from this trip really hit me as a pleasant surprise. Although I talk about it often, and we draw connections to it in many of the pieces we write about our company, the realization that so much of our inspiration really does hale from English traditions came full circle for me. Our founders lived in England for a few years while they worked in a pottery, and when they returned to New York, they brought the technique for ceramics which we still use today. But it’s more than all that. We have a serious connection to English culture, and a deep love for all things English. I confess! I’m an Anglophile! I find people from England so special—and this goes far beyond their lovely musical accents, whether it be Cockney or the Queen’s English. They do things with such flourish and they are such an incredibly sentimental bunch. They have a great sense of humor and they don’t take themselves too seriously. And of course their love of tea and all that goes with it is without rival. Since our very beginnings, we at MacKenzie-Childs have always felt so connected to the English, and we still feel the same way today.
My Londoner friend Martyn (from Battersea, on the south side of the River Thames) shared a tip: Did you know that the English pour their cold milk into their teacups before they pour their tea? Make no mistake—Americans do it the other way around.
P.S. My dear friend and sales director Mark joined us on the trip and shared some of his great photos. Here are a few highlights: