Emergency measures means Dublin dolls hospital faces closure


SMALL PRINT:MANY PEOPLE once owned a beloved doll or teddy bear whose constant companionship may have caused the loss of a glass eye or tufts of straggly fur to fall out. Beat-up bears and raggedy Anns had only to visit The Dublin Dolls Hospital to be spruced up. However, the landmark shop on George’s Street is the latest victim of the recession, and will close its doors this Saturday.

Owner Melissa Nolan admits to being “devastated”, but spiralling costs have made it impossible to keep the premises.“The business is actually very strong and we’re doing well, but rents and rates are climbing and will send us into debt if we don’t close.”

Established by two Lithuanian brothers in 1930, the shop has been in business for more than 80 years. Nolan, who trained as a doll-maker, took over the current premises in 1983, and it is thought to be the only doll-repair hospital in Ireland. Globally, similar businesses are scarce; another closed in New York in 2009. Nolan says that the Dublin shop receives toys for repair from all over the world and she would love to continue the business in some form, probably online.

Her other ambition relates to the knowledge and stock she has accumulated over the years. “There isn’t a children’s museum in Ireland, and we’ve got a lot of old toys. I’ve learnt so much over the years and I’d like to do something with that.

“Auctioneers come to me all the time,” she says, “and it’s funny, I can tell where and when most dolls and teddies are from. I also have a library of around 700 books on the subject.”

Three generations of customers have passed through the shop and the personal stories are what linger for the staff. “There was an Englishman with a very sick daughter who’d had a lot of heart operations,” says Nolan. “She had a beloved rabbit who she always brought to the hospital for comfort. He was in a bad shape, so her dad flew over. We fixed the rabbit and made him new pyjamas, because she always got new PJs whenever she went into hospital.”

The response to the shop closing down has overwhelmed Nolan. “People have been calling in all week with cards and cakes they’ve baked. One woman travelled down from Donegal just to see the shop again.”