In Grandpa's Footsteps
by Mary Jasch
Artists come in all fashions and practice their art in all media. Such is the case of Jodie MacKenn Bross who, with her brother Brad MacKenn, owns Glenwild Garden Center in Bloomingdale, New Jersey, rated five stars by customers new and old.
As third generation MacKenn, Jodie is celebrating Glenwild’s 90th anniversary this year.
In 1928, Jodie’s grandfather started the business as Alexander J. MacKenn Landscape Designing & Contracting. Several years later, grandmother Mabel opened a garden center store selling hardy and tropical plants and garden accoutrements. Meanwhile, Jodie’s dad, Alexander Jr., grew up in the midst of it all and pursued an education and career involving plants. Armed with degrees in horticulture and landscape design, he returned to the nursery and worked with his Dad designing and installing gardens.
Jodie and her brother Brad, the third generation of MacKenns, grew up in Kinnelon, NJ, a short distance from the nursery. Her only involvement with plants was weeding her mother’s flower and vegetable gardens. Jodie wanted to be an artist, a painter, but eventually decided to focus on something more practical – a degree in Interior Architecture at Rhode Island School of Design.
After graduation, she moved to Denver and lived in a cabin in the mountains. One day while looking around in a garden center, she was struck by the beauty and warm emotion of being around plants. “I thought ‘Oh my god, I would just love to work in a garden center!’ I thought I’d never live in New Jersey again but I moved back here and ended up working for the family business.” And the beat goes on.
Today, she is very much a proponent of organic gardening and brought organic products, such as compost and organic seedlings, into the store and conducts organic gardening classes. “I feel my mission is to educate people about organic gardening and living healthy,” she says. “I hope that with every person who supports organic gardening and believes in it, they will voice their opinions and maybe we can change the big picture.”
And though she still orders in chemical products, she puts them on the back wall.
Glenwild sells shrubs and trees, tropical and subtropicals, gorgeous fairy gardens, annuals, herbs and perennials. The landscape division is run by Brad, a landscape architect, and offers design and hardscaping. The gift shop is open all year, and with its greenhouse open like a sunroom, brings good feelings and warmth when it’s cold outside.
Jodie runs classes in herbs and nutrition, crafts and how-tos. This 90-year-old business is open seven days a week.
Says Jodie: “Because we’re small and out of the way, we’re a huge part of the community. People get used to us being open. We’re all about the community. I feel like my customers are my family; they’ve been coming here for years. There’s an old-fashioned feel to it. It’s not a big box store.”
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published March 18, 2018