History of The Doll Hospital

 

Our company has a very rich history that began in 1948 with Kathryn Parish, a tiny lady with a big dream.  Our Grandma, who was 36 at the time with three children talked her husband Roger (a physics teacher and loving husband) into investing in a floundering doll repair shop located in Detroit.  She learned the business from the previous owner and with the purchase acquired hundreds of boxes of carefully sorted antique doll parts. 

 

After a couple years, she moved her business to the tiny town of Berkley and the "Doll Hospital" Celebrated it's first Birthday in its Berkley location. There were gifts, refreshments, door prizes and full Birthday trimmings.  "Dr. Kay" as she was known, held lectures for Brownies, Girl Scouts, Blue Birds and Campfire Girls.  The celebration lasted for two weeks.  Little girls learned about hair styling and dressing their dolls and they enjoyed seeing the kinds of dolls their own mommies played with when they were little!

 

Kay and Roger turned the garage of their Beverly Hills home into an unbelievable hobby-work room. A large sewing workbench occupied the center of their room.  Here is where much of the doll repair magic happened for the next 40 years or so.  Besides running the daily business at the store, Kay made doll clothes, human hair wigs and bisque arms, legs and heads with her huge kiln. Roger pitched in with his amazing artistic talent (did we mention that he was a gifted artist?) and painted features on dolls faces and bodies, literally bringing them back to life.  These two special people had so many talents and made the most amazing team.  Roger later chronicled their 72 year love affair in a book titled "The Way it Was" adding accomplished author to his unparalleled list of achievements.  It is one of the most treasured items in our family history and we hope to have it published some day for all to enjoy!

 

Passing the Torch

Over the next 20 years, Kay continued to grow her doll repair and retail doll business.  She expanded the tiny one room shop to make room for large shipments of Madame Alexander dolls and a "show room" for her growing collection of quality collectible and play dolls.  In the early 1970's, Kay sold her Doll Hospital to her oldest son Jack.  He had spent the last 2 years in England as a marketing director for Honeywell and had been thinking about buying the place for years.  Before packing his wife and three small kids up and moving back to Michigan, Jack spent about 6 months visiting Toy Trade Fairs and doll manufacturers in Europe.  Around 1976, Jack added the words "& Toy Soldier Shop" to the name of the store.  This reflected his intentions to build a full-fledged specialty toy business around the unusual services offered by The Doll Hospital.  Along with the new name, came a major expansion......a large new showroom devoted to specialty toys of all kinds!  Dollhouses and Miniatures became a big part of the business as well as Toy Soldiers and other "boy toys" like cars and castles.  No TV toys though....we deplored those even then! Through the years, Jack has continued to play a major role in all areas of the business right up to the present day.  From CEO to Stock-boy he does it all!  During our busy seasons he jumps right in and unpacks boxes with his grandsons!  Over the years, he has overseen several major expansions and stretched our offerings of products and services to include Wooden Play Structures, Teacher supplies and our successful commercial website REALLYGREATTOYS.com which was the brainchild of Jack and his youngest daughter Sara.  Jack's #1 supporter has always been his wife Ruth, who has put in over 30 years of important part-time work at the store while raising their 4 children and relishing her role as "babysitter" to her twelve Grandchildren.  Jack and Ruth are very proud of the fact that their three daughters and all three of his son-in-laws play major roles in his businsess too. 

 

Passing the Torch Again!

 

Jack & Ruth's four children and their spouses each play important roles in the company. 

  • Scott.  At the age of 14, oldest son Scott relished in helping rip down walls to prepare for one of our many expansions.  As it turns out, construction is not his thing, but Scott is now CEO of a successful networking company, Center for Computer Resources.  Needless to say, he takes good care of his "family business" by servicing all of our computer and networking needs.  Each of Scott's five children have worked at the Doll Hospital in various capacities and have proudly represented the 4th generation!
  • Stacey & Jack Z.  At age 11, oldest daughter Stacey began helping out, doing inventory for the store at home on yellow pads of paper!  She went on to study merchandising at Central Michigan University and returned to work at the Doll Hospital upon graduation.  She has since worked her way up to Company President.  As President she wears many hats and oversees the majority of toy buying as well as the day to day running of the store........with over 50 employees to date, that is no small task! Stacey makes annual trips to the New York International Toy Show to meet with manufacturers and scope out exciting new products for the coming year.  Stacey's husband Jack has headed up our Marketing department for the past 9 years.  He brings valuable experience from his previous post at the Palace of Auburn Hills.  Jack Z wears many hats, just like his wife and plays important roles in many other areas of the business, especially wooden play structures.  Stacey and Jack have two boys.
  • Cindy & Jim.  Daughter Cindy graduated from Central Michigan University with a degree in elementary education.  She spent a couple years substitute teaching, and built a reputation as a dedicated and well-liked teacher.  With her expanding family, she opted for a career change and has never looked back.  She came back to The Doll Hospital and played an instrumental role in our toy and swingset departments for many years when her first two children were small.  In 2003, Cindy played an instrumental role in the opening of our Teacher Division (the Parent Teacher Resource Center).  She has put her valuable skills to good use and takes care of the majority of the purchasing in what has become one of South East Michigan's top Teacher Stores!  Cindy's husband Jim has played an integral role in the business for over 20 years.  He is one of the nation's foremost doll restoration artists, and manages all activities related to rebuilding and restoring antiques. In the past 15 years, the store has tripled in size and added two off-site warehouses.  Jim has overseen each of these major expansions from the initial architectural planning to the demanding physical labor.  He has also done much of the "grunt work" himself.  His most recent projects include the teacher store in 2003 and our upstairs internet division that is growing very rapidly!  Jim and Cindy have three children....the two older ones might even be looking for employment in the next couple years!
  • Sara & Scott G.  Youngest daughter Sara grew up "behind the counter" just like the other children did. Every Saturday morning, she tagged along with her mom for a few hours.  She was given various tasks to make her feel "important".......among these: re-stocking the Britain's plastic soldiers and animals, using scotch tape to clean dead flies out of the doll cases, and beginning in the 4th grade she started entering customers names and addresses into our first computerized mailing list.  Sara worked at the store through her high school and college years at the University of Michagan.  Sara managed our outdoor wooden playset division for many years, and still plays an important role from her post at home with her two small children.  Sara created this informational website and devotes much of her time to the running of our commercial website ReallyGreatToys.com.  Sara's husband Scott G, joined the family in 2004.  While he has a full time job as a senior web developer, he is employed by the Doll Hospital on a contract basis.  He has put is invaluable skills to use to build our state of the art commercial website.  Scott & Sara have two little daughters at home and spend much of their free time collaborating on ReallyGreatToys.com projects.

 

Our Valued Employees!

This is our "Family Business", and we consider our incredible staff as an extension of our Doll Hospital Family.  Many of our 50 plus employees have been with us for over a decade!  Diane, our CFO captured the prize in 2007 when we celebrated her 25th year of employment with our company!  Janet & Janice, who once worked closely with Kay and Roger head up the doll repair department.  Jan runs the doll sales department and is one of our most experienced Playset specialists with over 15 years experience! Tim, the youngest member of our management team heads up our internet division in the fall and winter.  In the warmer months he works with Jim and Jack Z to manage our Swingset Department. The two Jeremy's lead our Swingset Installation crews and work on important stocking projects during the off-season.  Our newest management hire, Donna has made important contributions in almost every aspect of the business with major emphasis on our Teacher Department, our internet division and human resources.  We have a large staff of year-round employees who understand our classic toys and traditional learning activities.  Many of them are mom's who frequented our store when their grown children were small!  They are friendly and caring and very knowledgeable.  We employ many promising young students as stock workers and internet fulfillers. We have worked closely with Berkley High School's co-op program and are proud to have had three talented employees win the "co-op student of the year" award under our employment.