Friday, February 22, 2013

The Dollhouse: Florence, MT

David and I drive past The Dollhouse on a regular basis.  One day as we passed, we discussed what kind of a business - because it was obviously some kind of business - it is.  I am inclined to think it is a salon with a catchy name and very little clientele since there are rarely more than one or two cars in the parking lot.

Pretty much like today.  One of those must belong to the proprietor since there is no parking behind the building.

David is inclined to believe the name is literal and that it is a doll store.

No way, I say.  There is no way this town of only a few thousand people would be able to support a doll store that size.  So this past Tuesday, I stop in on my way to look at a house (let the house-hunting begin!).  Before I even get inside, I see that David is right.

I hate it when he is right.  At least he isn't here to gloat in person.

Not only is this doll store in the least logical location to me, it is both a very large doll store and a museum.  As you walk in you are in the store half and they have almost every kind of doll imaginable.  I say "almost" because you won't find a single American Girls doll here.

There are traditional dolls like Raggedy Ann and Andy and lots of Precious Moments.

All kinds of "life like" dolls.

Including some I find to be quite creepy.

But none as creepy as the Kewpie dolls, of which there are several.  These dolls look like they know where the butcher block in your kitchen is and they plan to visit your bedroom with an assortment of knives after you are asleep.

Some dolls are just plain weird.  I can't imagine the person who would see this pair and think, "I must own those!"

I am not fond of this trend towards life-like faces.  What was wrong with Holly Hobbie and Strawberry Shortcake?  I did not see any goth, vampire or zombie dolls so I still haven't obtained the roller-skating goth zombie doll I saw when I was in Omaha.  Also, no Monster High here.

There are dolls with tattoos, dolls of all nationalities, made from all kinds of materials.  Cases and cases and cases of them.

There are some fantastic - and very expensive - dolls here too.  These handmade completely wooden dolls are from the Xenis Collection and were designed after fairy tale characters.  You can see Red-Riding Hood in the back.

Captain Hook is really impressive. These dolls were in the $1,000 to $1,500 range...per doll.

The store also boasts a generous collection of miniatures and doll house furniture.

Figurines, ornaments and stuffed animals.  There are also doll clothes and carriages but surprisingly few doll houses.

There is only one other person in the store while I am there and based on the conversation she is having with the owner, I assume she is a regular.  I ask the owner if there is a museum as there appears to be additional rooms in the back with no lights on. She says yes and escorts me to the back for a look.  She is very helpful and knowledgeable about the dolls in the museum because they were owned by her mother.  The museum is at least as large as the store portion but these dolls are not for sale.  She says she has duplicates of some or she could order others but these stay here.  And, this isn't even all of them.  She has overflow rooms full of dolls because her mother owned so many she can't display them all.

She tells me of how her mother went to the bank and asked for $500 to start a doll store.  The banker was hesitant to do the loan but ultimately did and that is how it all started.  Now the daughter carries on the legacy her mother began.

The doll on the left is Martha Washington, part of a large collection of the First Ladies.

There were several collections around famous people like this one of Shirley Temple dolls.  This makes me wonder, do you think Shirley Temple Black owns the dolls made in her image?

  She has Cher, Jackie Kennedy, and quite a few Gone with the Wind dolls and figurines.  There are some Barbies in the collection but only a few (still in the box) and usually only where they match some other type of collection, such as Marilyn Monroe.  I didn't see any Barbie or Barbie-type dolls in the store.  I imagine they leave that to Wal-Mart.

That doll on the stool looked frightening real.  The owner stays with me and tells me stories about some of the dolls, tells me about the different makers or how her mom came to own them.

Like these that were obtained at an estate sale.  Though there are dolls here from Thailand, Italy, China and other places her mother never traveled. All of the dolls were purchased in Western Montana either through stores, estate sales or individuals offering to sell them to her mother.

I asked my neighbor if the store has been there they whole time they have lived here and she said yes.  That is at least 6 years.  I honestly can't imagine how she manages to stay open unless she has income from other sources.  And although I am not someone who is normally interested in dolls, the store and the museum are quite impressive.  More impressive is the owners dedication to carrying on after her mother and her obvious passion for the store and her mother's collection.  Everyone should be so lucky in their everyday work life.

And yes...I bought a doll.  I was tempted (NOT) by the 1st birthday Kewpie doll but ended up going for the traditional:  Raggedy Ann on a rocking horse for my granddaughter Audrey's birthday coming up in March.

Theresa's Dolls & Gifts
5908 Eastside Highway
Florence, MT
M-S 10am - 6pm

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