It’s all in the Family! – Celebrating Mother’s Day

Bronner’s, a 70-plus-year-old family business, has learned a thing or two about working with family over the years! The importance of family is the heartbeat of the Bronner family and many of their employees and their families. On this Mother’s day, we want to share with you just a few of the many moms that work with their children at Bronner’s and what they all have to say about working with each other!

THE BRONNER FAMILY

Irene Bronner with daughters Maria and Carla and son Wayne

Mom Irene Bronner loves spending time with her children at work and outside of work. Beloved by her family and the staff of Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland and an inspiration to all, Irene enjoys working at the reception desk. The Bronner children have been involved in the family business from their early years when they folded boxes and helped in various other ways. Originator Wally Bronner and wife Irene ran Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland for decades. In 1998, Wally and Irene transferred leadership responsibility to Wayne, Carla and Maria. Wally was actively involved in the business until he passed on to heaven in 2008.

(Left) A picture at the Tannenbaum Shop by Bronner’s life-size Nativity taken in the late ’60s of Irene Bronner and her daughters Carla and Maria. In 1977 Bronner’s consolidated its three locations and moved under one roof to 25 Christmas Lane. Irene (at a young 91) continues to spend time at the business in the office and various meetings. (Right) Irene Bronner with daughters Maria and Carla and son Wayne.

Lorene Bronner with son Dietrich

How did you and your Mom come to work at Bronner’s? How long have you been working together?

Dietrich: I grew up working at the store when I was young.  Having all the other employees know my brother and me as we worked here was like having a bunch more moms around, in a fun way, because they all knew us. When growing up in a family business, it’s good to work outside of the business after college and prove yourself in the outside world. I did that for seven or eight years and it was a great experience. I returned to the store 10 years ago when a position for product development opened up. This position and my catalog manager position deal closely with all of our buyers, and my mom is a buyer, so we’re just a few offices away from each other.

Lorene: This is my 35th year at Bronner’s; I started working here in November of 1983 after Wayne and I moved from the Lansing area when he decided to join the family business after a career with the Department of Natural Resources as a Wildlife Biologist. Dietrich started here fulltime 10 years ago as a natural progression to rejoin the family business after gaining some outside experience. When he and his brother Garrett were young, they worked in a variety of positions – decorating trees, picking up trash, making tracts,  deadheading geraniums in the summer, picking up the boxes in the stockroom drop-off areas and taking them to the baler, etc.  Staff were accustomed to seeing them around in various capacities. I would keep track of their hours and pay them out of petty cash when they were too young to be on the payroll! One of the advantages of having both my sons work here summers during college and high school was that we could always plan our vacations together and they could get the vacation time off!

What do you love most about working with each other?

Dietrich: She brings my lunch to work when I ride my bike. That’s the best. Ha! On a more serious note, we know each other well and that helps improve many facets of the workplace. Traveling on buying trips is also great because it is with the family. My mom also supports my creativity and isn’t afraid to push the envelope in terms of trying new, out-of-the-box ideas.

Lorene: One of the most fun things about working together is the opportunities provided to travel on buying trips together and experience other cultures, languages, food, etc. Also the opportunity to see my son grow in his creativity and succeed with his ideas and plans is very rewarding as a mother to know that you have succeeded at being a mother. But another positive point is that Bronner’s is big enough and our duties are varied enough that I might not even see him at work in a given day except in passing.

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Gisela Murphy with daughter Aileen Libbey

How did you and your mom come to work at Bronner’s? How long have you been working together?

Collective Response: Mom started working at Bronner’s in 2000 when we moved to the area from downstate. Having been born and raised in Germany, she was a natural fit for Frankenmuth! I came to Bronner’s three years later after graduating from high school. Having come when we did, we were both fortunate enough to work with originator Wally Bronner. He knew all of his employees so well; it was quite remarkable and admirable. (I remember he would even ask about our little dog.) Bronner’s has basically been our second home for the last 18 years, and we love it!

What do you love most about working with each other?

Aileen: Mom and I are both big homebodies – working together means getting to see my best friend almost every day! We have lunch together most of the time, and I always tell Mom I love her before heading back to my department. It’s become a bit of a joke with our friend Pam, who eats with us and yells back at me that she loves me, too.

Gisela: I remember visiting Bronner’s in the late ’90s from downstate with my mom and sister who were here from Germany. I love thinking on the irony that Aileen and I are now working here, together. It’s always fun on our lunches to plan our trips back to visit my family in Germany and then reminiscing about our adventures afterwards.

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Carol Schnell with son Jason Schnell

How did you and your mom come to work at Bronner’s? How long have you been working together?

Carol: I have been full-time at Bronner’s since 1985. I really loved my job and as a young child, Jason always said he wanted to work here. He came to work 11 years ago when he was in high school. He loves Christmas and it was a good fit for him.

Jason: We have worked together here at Bronner’s for over 11 years now, but Mom has worked here for over 32 years. When I was younger I would always hear Mom talk about how much she loved her job and how great a place it was to work. I knew from a very young age that I wanted to work here, and this place has become a huge part of my life!

What do you love most about working with each other?

Carol: It’s fun working with a lot of people and sometimes we need a little help from other areas.  Whenever we need help, we know we can call on Jason, whether it’s for lifting something or helping us out when we’re short staffed (especially when the weather is bad and people call in). Jason works well with everyone, and he likes to joke around as he works because it puts people in a good mood. One of the things I like about working with Jason is he is a great decorator and is not afraid to try something different and sometimes unusual. Also, a big thing for me is I don’t have to do the decorating at home. I usually come home and the tree is up and decorated! I have to admit, I am not good at that! We constantly pick on each other at work. (Some people might not get our humor, but it’s all in fun.) Jason has also helped with scrubbing floors, etc. and we got a HUGE laugh when he used the power scrubber for the first time. He had no idea how much power it had until he pulled the handle and it threw him on the floor. We were laughing so hard because the look on his face was priceless!

Jason: The thing I love most about working here with my mom is seeing how overly excited and hyper she gets when busy season rolls around! She has the kind of personality that motivates others and can lift their spirits no matter what is going on. I’ve made many memories while working with Mom over the years, but some of the best ones would definitely have to be all the times I got to help her in the snack area. When things get crazy in the snack area during the busy season, you can always find my mom hopping and skipping through the snack area and occasionally busting a few dance moves (sorry, Mom)! She definitely knows how to get her area motivated and still have fun along the way! I am so thankful that I have been able to work with my mom and that I have had such a great role model over the years!

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Linda Taylor with daughter Jen Mays

How did you and your Mom come to work at Bronner’s? How long have you been working together?

Linda: After working in the school system for 20 years, I decided to retire but needed something to occupy my time. Jennifer has worked at Bronner’s for years and loves her job, so I decided to give it a try and love it as well. She started working at Bronner’s in 1994, I have been here for three years.

Jen: There are quite a few years between the time I started working at Bronner’s and when my mom started working here. I started working at Bronner’s when I was 18 years old. I am going on my 21st year here. I love working for such a great family! Once my mom retired, she wanted something else to do. I mentioned how she would really like working at Bronner’s, and she is now on her third year.

What do you love most about working with each other?

Linda: I love getting to pass her in the halls and watch her decorate the displays. It’s always a great day to see my lovely little girl!

Jen: What I love most about working with my mom is being able to see her throughout the day and having lunch with her. For a time she worked in the same department with me. That was fun – we painted the program center together. The people in my department really got to know her and see how much fun she is! My mom is everything to me. She has the biggest heart and such a giving soul. I love that I get to see her at work and have people tell me a little story about how sweet she is. I am very lucky to call her my mom.

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Lynn Roebuck with son Josh and daughter Lauren. Gayle O’Kelly (mom of Lynn) with grandchildren Josh and Lauren.

How did you and your mom come to work at Bronner’s? How long have you been working together?

Josh and Lauren: The work environment here at Bronner’s has always resembled a family atmosphere more than a work environment. So it just seemed natural when Mom was looking for work to encourage her to apply here at Bronner’s. She’s had previous work experience that was needed for the position that was open so it was the perfect opportunity. She hired in early 2016, so we’ve been working together almost two whole years. It’s kind of unique compared to most workplaces, but there are quite a few employees who have family members that are working at Bronner’s. It’s a positive testament to the company that so many employees enjoy working here so much that they encourage the people the trust and love the most to share in that. And our mom likes to know what we’re doing at all times so it’s just easier since she works here!

Lynn: I came to work at Bronner’s (for the second time in my life) when Josh told me about the cash-office posting.  I had worked at a bank for 16 years, and he thought this would be a job I might like and be good at. I have been working at Bronner’s with my children for two years.

What do you love most about working with each other?

Josh: Coordinating lunches together is always fun. Gets us through the mornings and gives us something to look forward to. Even if she has a short day scheduled for her job, she’ll clock out and take an extra hour out of her day to spend time with us.

Lauren: It’s nice to be able to spend a few extra minutes of the day with each other, whether it be carpooling to and from work or eating lunch together.

Lynn: I have always enjoyed my children and I am very proud of the adults that they have become. They sometimes call me a “smother.”  Working at Bronner’s with them gives me the opportunity to see them work at a job where they are appreciated, and I get more opportunities to be a “smother.”  🙂

Gayle: I love working here and it’s just more fun to have your family here. All of my girls have worked here, and I think the only one who hasn’t is my husband. This is my ninth season working at Bronner’s, I started in gifts and ended up in the toy section. One of my favorite stories is when Josh was up on the catwalk and he saw me down on the showroom floor and yelled “Hi, Grandma!” Every older woman on the floor turned and looked because they were all grandmas, too!

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