Gnome City: How Garden Kitsch Saved a Polish Town

Gnomes were such a boon to the local economy that a park was set up in their honor in the town's center. There the most popular models are on display, including the hunting gnome complete with dachshund and rifle, the lantern gnome, and, of course, the wheelbarrow-pushing gnome. For a long time, Bogdan Zakrzewski's best-selling model was a very German gnome, one with its index finger held in the air, as if it were giving a lecture.

But the Father of the Gnomes wasn't content to sell his creations at the side of the road to western Germans passing through. Soon he was supplying wholesalers and home improvement stores in Germany and Switzerland. But when the financial crisis hit five years ago, the gnomes of Nowa Sól turned from saviors of the town to the victims of globalization. After all, Chinese-made garden gnomes are even cheaper than their Polish rivals.

Since then Adam Zakrzewski has branched out, making different figures and hiring a sculptor to come up with new models in a dusty studio. In the room next to the sculptor's studio, molds are made out of fiberglass mats and polyester resin. The exact recipe is a closely-guarded company secret. The firm's 16 employees process 2 metric tons of plastic per week.

Today, Adam Zakrzewski the gnome manufacturer is the boss of a mid-sized business. He says things like: "We've transformed the boom into sustainable growth." His latest order is for human-sized cones filled with plastic churros (deep-fried dough) as long as arms, which was commissioned by a chain of bakeries in Spain.

Meanwhile, the last gnomes in his warehouse were destined for a new home: a fairytale-themed amusement park in Romania.

Translated from the German by Jan Liebelt.

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