Dolls hospital in Dublin to close


When closing for good, few stores have been known to receive thank you cards and teddy bears.

But then again, few stores are as beloved as The Doll Store on George’s Street, Dublin, home of the Dolls Hospital and Teddybear Clinic, that is due to close tomorrow due to the costs associated with its current location.

The store has received a veritable whirlwind of well-wishes from doll enthusiasts and return customers alike, rushing in for last-minute maintenance to ensure the well-being of treasured possessions.

Sitting above her shop on Georges Street, Melissa Nolan holds a small box in one hand and reads an accompanying letter out loud. “Thank you so much for all the years you let me enjoy the shop. It is with great sadness that I hear you are closing.”

After a few moments, she unfastens the tape holding the box closed. Inside is a charm shaped like a teddy bear. “That is so lovely. That’s what we’re getting,” Ms Nolan said.

The deluge of good wishes has been nonstop since The Doll Store announced it would be closing tomorrow due to financial reasons.

The store has been a mainstay on this stretch of road since the 1930s, and Ms Nolan has been the owner for the last 28 years. Putting her doll making skills to good use, she also began a doll hospital and teddy bear repair clinic, where she has helped keep Dublin’s much loved toys and heirlooms in tip-top shape.

The closure is a hard blow for her customers, some who have frequented the shop their entire lives. The Doll Store is one of the few left of its kind, offering repairs as well as custom dollhouses, clothing and miniatures.

Clients have been arriving from all over the country hoping to make one last order before the store closes its doors for good. But the Nolans remain hopeful that another more affordable location may soon become available.

“Nothing’s materialised yet. We have about eight [offers] at the minute; more came in today we didn’t have a look at. We haven’t had time. We made a few appointments for next week to see if there’s anything,” said Chris Nolan, Melissa’s husband.

The Nolans are very particular about what might suit them - somewhere with enough space for spare parts, repairs, and perhaps even a museum. “We have a definite feeling, of course, that nobody wants us to leave. It’s very heartening,” Mr Nolan said.

One of the few remaining shops of its kind, the store not only repaired dolls and damaged bears but it also created custom dolls’ houses modelled on the client’s home, replete with replica miniature furniture.

While Ms Nolan, who trained as a doll-maker, has owned the premises for 28 years, there has been a doll store on the street since the 1930s when it was set up by two Lithuanian brothers.

She said rising costs have made it impossible to keep the current 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.”

Similar businesses are rare in other countries and the Dolls Hospital in New York closed in 2009. Nolan receives toys for repair from all over the world.

Three generations of customers have visited the shop and they waxed poetic on recent purchases for grandchildren and on times they came here as children.

“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 shop has an online incarnation and Ms Nolan initially planned to move her operations solely online. But the outpouring of support has been so great that she is now considering moving to a more affordable location elsewhere in the city, if the right opportunity presents itself.

“We’re getting so much good will from people, lots of phone calls saying they may have a place that will suit us,” Ms Nolan said. “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.”

“It’s not that we want to discontinue the business; we don’t. But . . . sentiment is not going to pay the bills for us.”

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 old toys. I’ve learnt so much over the years and I’d like to do something with that.”