Couple’s adventurous mid-life career pivot fueled by relaxing plant
Take one step inside downtown Plymouth’s Belle Lavande and feel your stress levels plummet.
The wonderfully soothing aroma of the business’s star attraction — lavender — immediately creates a soft purple reign over any anxieties you may have carried into the 900-square-foot shop owned and operated by Livonia residents Terry and Windy Mack, whose mid-life pivot is as refreshing as their product’s smell.
Looking for a lifestyle change in late-2020 (Terry was a soon-to-be-laid-off engineer while Windy cleaned homes), the Macks chose an adventurous path and purchased 40 acres of rural property in Stockbridge, Mich., with the intent of growing crops and opening an adjacent store.
A few enjoyable pre-COVID stops at a northern-Michigan lavender farm and several hours of diligent research convinced the Macks to populate their new property with the stunning purple plants.
“Our research showed that lavender is the No. 1-selling essential oil,” Windy Mack said. “And the main reason a lot of people are so obsessed with lavender is its versatility. Not only does it smell good, it can be used for medical, culinary — a lot of different purposes.”
The Macks’ tireless ambition kicked in shortly after they secured the land, which is located approximately 30 miles east of Lansing.
Terry Mack, who has fond childhood memories of working at his grandparents’ farm in Ohio, meticulously groomed a section of the property for the lavender, the planting of which started in spring of 2021.
“We’ve had some good fortune,” Terry shared. “Not long after we decided we were going to grow lavender on our property, Michigan State offered a new online 30-hour course that focused on lavender farming. The course included tests, watching videos … it was very comprehensive. When I completed it, I received a certificate.
“Without the course, we could have picked up bits and pieces of lavender farming online, but this course was convenient because it was very thorough. I learned how to test the soil, how much water the plants need, everything we needed to know.”
Turning the property into land conducive to growing lavender has been at times a painstaking ordeal — one that has included the removal of hundreds of rocks.
“We’ve even been fortunate enough to find a few fossils in the ground that we will put on display in the barn,” Terry said.
The Macks have since hired Amish laborers to construct a barn/lavender store on their property.
They’ve attended courses — including a few at the Canton’s Village Arts Factory — to learn how to make lavender soaps, oils and other products.
And in May of 2022, they opened their storefront at 477 South Main.
The positive feedback they’ve received from Belle Lavande customers has been powerful, Windy said.
“I get teary-eyed sometimes talking about it,” she said. “It’s been amazing. People have sent us letters, the Google reviews have been outstanding.
“One lady told us how she used our lavender hand creme on a sore on the bottom of her foot that wouldn’t heal, and she saw results almost immediately. Lavender is known as a natural healer and we have stories and anecdotes from customers that back that up.”
The products the Macks manufacture in their Plymouth store will be sold from their barn beginning in May.
Giving back to nature
The Macks intend to give back to nature with the property they’re cultivating.
“We’ve learned that two acres of the property we own was formerly wetlands,” she said. “We decided we’re going to turn it back into wetlands, which will be a $10,000 project. We’ve received a $6,000 grant from Ducks Unlimited toward the project and $2,000 from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, so we still need to come up with another $2,000. It’s going to be beautiful.”
Never at a loss for ideas, the Macks are planning to offer farm-to-table dinners and sunset-viewing opportunities for members of the public.
“The summer and fall sunsets out here are beyond-amazing,” Windy said. “People will have an opportunity to lay down a blanket on the rows between the lavender plants and picnic while they’re watching the sun set.
The Macks live in a camper on their farmland on the weekends before returning to their Livonia home on Sunday evenings. Terry is currently working as an engineer at a company in Wixom while Windy and Ryan run the Plymouth store.
“We’ve found out that running a lavender farm requires a lot of work and a lot of money,” Windy said, smiling. “But it’s been worth every minute and dime we’ve put into it.”
To learn more about the Macks’ incredible adventure, visit the Belle Lavande website by clicking here.
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