By Molly Snyder Senior Writer Published Jul 08, 2002 at 5:49 AM

Once upon a time, there was very little choice in the land of concrete lawn ornaments. You had the gnomes, the birdbaths, the deer, the un-PC black jockeys, but that was about it. Six years ago, James and Nancy Malkowski opened Garden Star, and increased our lawn ornament selection exponentially.

Garden Star is a kitchy wonderland of concrete creations. The three-acre lot, located on the west frontage road of I-94 (just North of the Kenosha Outlet malls), is literally mobbed with thousands of fountains, birdbaths and lawn ornaments. Gargoyles, dogs, cats, birds, Buddhas, pigs, angels, geese, dragons, lions, strange faces, small children, benches, planters and a slew of biblical and mythological characters are just a few of the pieces for sale.

Jim, a self-described "perpetual art student," makes many of the molds himself. His gargoyles are his favorite creations, because they range from mean to melancholy. He and his staff of seven make hundreds of pieces a year, and he also orders pieces, some painted but most of them not, from all over the United States.

"Everyone has their own taste," says Jim. "It's kind of like furniture. You wouldn't want the exact same furnishings as your neighbor."

Jim has worked with concrete and sculpture for many years. He crafted the benches behind the Marcus Center for the Arts along the Milwaukee River, MATC's outdoor benches and ballards (the bases for flagpoles), and a facade for a building on Ogden and Prospect. It was the building project that actually gave him the idea to open a place like Garden Star. "When I was working with the architects and the building owner on ideas for the building, the crazier I got, the more they liked it," said Jim, who convinced them to put gargoyles on the front of the building. "It made me want to keep creating crazy stuff."

Jim considers concrete sculptures to be his commercial art, and bronze sculptures his fine art. Last year, he created a fine art project with UW-Madison professor Steve Ferren -- a concrete, fiber optic sculpture located on Plankinton and Wisconsin, and his bronze sculptures appear periodically in shows at the Anderson Art Center in Kenosha.


Jim claims lawn ornaments are more popular than ever. "Concrete art will always be popular," he says. "You can decorate the interior of your house with any material, but concrete is one of the few materials that you can use to decorate the outside."

When asked why he sells some statues such as black fishing men, black jockeys, and traditional "Indian" statues, considering that some patrons may find them offensive, Jim said, "Hey, we have something for everyone, from Buddha to David to the jockeys. People have mentioned they would be afraid to display something like that in their yards, but if you go to small towns, you'd be amazed at how many statues like that are still out there."

Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.

Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.