Margaret Wright began working as a part-time employee for Bee Creek Botanicals, a company established by American Botanical Council (ABC) Founder and Executive Director Mark Blumenthal, in January of 1988. Shortly thereafter, in November of that year, she transitioned to the newly established ABC, where she has worked full-time ever since — with 17 co-workers — a departure from the more modest and upstart atmosphere she first encountered.
“Back then, there were three people in the office: Mark, who did his usual stuff except he didn’t travel nearly as much as he does now; his secretary, Mary, who did sales calls for Bee Creek, payroll, and tried to keep Mark on track; and me, who did everything else,” Margaret wrote in 2000, in her reflection “Back in Time with ABC.” “Mark would come into my office every day,” she wrote, “and ask if I still liked it here.”
In “Back in Time with ABC,” Margaret recalls those early days with fondness. “We had fun,” she said. “For our first Thanksgiving and holiday parties, we could all fit around the kitchen table. We would go out to lunch for people’s birthdays and all sit at one small table. We even went to a movie one time together after work.”
Over the course of 25 years, Margaret traveled to Costa Rica through an ABC program and witnessed the organization’s numerous technological upgrades, such as ABC’s first fax machine. “We were all so excited,” she said with a laugh. She also became ABC’s official, much-lauded birthday-cake baker. ABC employees look forward to monthly staff meetings as they almost always are coupled with a sumptuous dessert from Margaret to celebrate corresponding staff birthdays. Popular options include her chocolate silk pie, fudge, and of course her infamous and dangerously delicious carrot cake — Mark’s personal favorite — which is in fact so good it has been known to convert carrot-cake detractors.
ABC’s work-culture values have remained consistent since ’88. For Margaret, who had three children under the age of four when she joined ABC, part of the appeal of the organization was that it honored the importance of family above all. “One of the things that I liked about ABC in the beginning, and I started out working there when my kids were very young… it was a good place to work for a family person because Mark always believed in putting family first.” Margaret’s daughter, Carrie, even worked at ABC for a short time. “She was 14, and we didn’t have a receptionist that summer for some reason, so she came to work there and was a receptionist, and Mark got a call one time, and whoever it was said ‘It sounds like your receptionist is 14,’ and he said ‘She is!’”
Margaret found friendship at ABC, as well, particularly with finance coordinator Cecelia Thompson, who was hired about six months after Margaret. “We became friends right away, but we weren’t in the same office,” she said. That situation was remedied when ABC moved to its present location at its historic Case Mill Homestead headquarters.
Before coming to Bee Creek and ABC, Margaret leased and maintained plants for office buildings. Her initial title at ABC was subscription coordinator, and she continued in that role until ABC relocated to Case Mill. She now serves as accounting coordinator, a vocation that provides her with opportunities to engage with interesting people from around the world.
“One of the things I like about my job is I get to talk to people in other states and countries,” said Margaret. “Some of them I’ve been talking to for years and I kind of think of them as my friends. If we’re having a particularly hot summer or I’ve heard that it’s snowing extra hard in some community and I am on the phone asking about payment or membership, I’ll sometimes ask them about the weather where they are. It’s kind of nice.”
Another component of the job Margaret enjoys most is sleuthing. “Cecelia and I always say we like to play detectives,” she said. “I like solving mysteries. Sometimes I have to figure out a membership that I can’t find in our system or a mathematical question that requires a lot of concentration. It’s fun when I figure it out.”
It comes as no surprise, then, that Margaret is a trusted connoisseur of BBC mystery series — and British television series in general — and her consistently good taste is relied upon by many in the ABC offices. The same can be said in the area of literature as a result of her voracious appetite for books. Among all of her wonderful qualities and skills, Margaret is perhaps most beloved for her cunning, wily, and effortless sense of humor, which she never neglects to bring to work.
“Margaret is every employer’s dream,” said Blumenthal. “I can never adequately express how much I appreciate and respect her as an employee, and as a person. She is one of the most solidly consistent employees I’ve ever had in over 40 years of owning or running a business or organization. She’s intensely responsible, totally reliable, incredibly loyal, performs her duties virtually flawlessly, handles myriad details effectively, has an excellent 25-year institutional memory, and gets along exceedingly well with the rest of the staff. Who could ask for anything more?”
To the delight of everyone fortunate enough to work alongside her, even after 25 years, Margaret is still going strong at ABC. “Cecelia and I have a pact, and Mark wanted to join in on our pact. He said he’s never quitting, so that means we can’t, so….”