For Further information on our shop don't miss our Recent articles in Dolls Magazine' September 2003 issue and last years articles in Dolls magazine September 2002 Issue, Doll readers 2002 issue and Contemporary Doll Magazines' 2002 Issue. Follow up articles were also done in Dollreader, Dolls Magazine and Contemporary dolls magazine on last years 20th Anniversary show. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for issues.
Don't miss our show follow up articles in all these magazines as well!
History of the Dollery and the Merry Christmas Shoppe
Interview with Janice Toser, Writer
Kim Malone’s (President of Dollery.com) journey into the doll business started with her father’s gut feeling about the industry.
“He was a pioneer by helping to establish not only the retail doll business in the United States, but by also introducing many doll artist to the United States doll market,” Kim says.
That led, in turn, to the fact that she has spent 17 years as doll buyer and general manager of the Merry Christmas Shoppe – The Dollery, her family-owned business.
The Merry Christmas Shoppe –The Dollery had unique origins into the world of dolls. It all began when Harold (a retired Massachusetts railroad worker) and Gladys Knox started a seasonal business selling Christmas trees 35 years ago. They would be opened from July through December selling Christmas trees and holiday ornaments and then they were closed for the rest of the year.
About seven years after they started this seasonal business, their son, Donald, a landscape architect, his wife Rita and their three daughters Kimberley, Linda and Cheryl moved back to Massachusetts from Delaware to run the business. Donald decided to expand the scope of the business to include collectables and seasonal gifts year round. He met Ken Shader who was well known in the reproduction doll business. Donald, impressed with the beauty of the reproduction dolls, ordered $50,000 worth of dolls – a huge risk, but one that paid off. Soon, The Merry Christmas Shoppe became a big fish in a small pond.
Malone, the oldest daughter, a graduate of business management from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst and the general manager of The Dollery comments, “At one of the next trade shows that my father attended, Thomas Boland suggested to my father that we hold a doll show with multiple artists displaying their works. My father thought it was a wonderful way that customers could meet the artists and took his advice. Thus, in 1986 - the 4TH ANNUAL SHOW was born. This was an amazing show and the real beginning of shows featuring original artist work. Now, 21 years later, we are the longest running multiple artist retail doll show in the United States. That same year my parents went to Germany to the Nuremburg toy fair and met Hildegard Gunzel who attended this show. They also met Annette Himstedt who had not even been picked up by Mattel yet in the United States. The next year, Annette became famous instantly at the New York Toy show.”
Malone literally grew-up in the doll business. She was not spoiled with expensive dolls as a child, but rather appreciated all the ones in her family’s store. “As a child I had only one set of dolls that were Shader reproductions named after my Mother, sisters and myself. I think because I was around the dolls all the time, I did not have to personally own them for myself,” Malone says.
Because of this unique exposure to the art of the doll, she developed an appreciation of the artists’ talents in making the dolls. The annual doll shows gave her the ability to know the doll artists at a different level. “The artists were like family. By age 17, I was taking famous artists like Bridget Deval and Hidegard Gunzel to and from the airport and hotel. They were very friendly and open in discussing their works. I learned to truly appreciate the artistic talents of the sculptors and I developed a very sophisticated taste in dolls at a young age. We now carry over 150 artists from around the world and have over 8,000 dolls available on our online store, www.dollery.com. Some of these artists include Karen Blandford Alderson, Angela and John Barker, Anna Abigail Brahms, Joan Blackwood, Jane Bradbury, Marilyn Bolden, Stephanie Cauley, Bonnie Chyle, Rose Coddaire, Berdine Creedy, Julie Fischer, Tom Francirek, Lucia Freidericy, Emily Garthright, Elissa Glassgold, Hildegard Gunzel, Pam Hamel, Annette Himstedt, Maggie Iacono, Jacqueline Kent, Linda Kertzman, Helen Kish, Susan Krey, Alexandra Kukinova, Nadine Leepinlausky, Rebecca Major, Jan Mclean, Pauline Middleton, Sarah Niemela, Andre' Oliveira, Heidi Plusczok, Susan Snodgrass, Marilyn Stivers, Virginia Turner, Susan Wakeen, Sylvia Weser, and R. John Wright to name a few.
“Looking back, I guess it is no surprise that I ended-up in the doll retail business,” Malone chuckles, “ After graduating from college, my father suggested that I help-out at The Dollery just for the summer. I loved it and never left. I now have been working full-time for the past 17 years.”
“I love my job. Not many people can say that today. I love the artists because I really respect their artistic abilities, because I do not have any. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for the artists,” she says “I am amazed by how they create these works and the individuality of each artist. New artists will come to us and show me their work before every showing it. I feel honored that they trust me this way. In fact, that is the case with Marilyn Stivers to name just one. Her first show was at The Dollery.”
“I also love our customers and I try to establish a real one-on-one relationship,” she says. “I sell about 90 percent of the dolls myself. I personally do not appreciate when I go to purchase a major item and the salesperson is impersonal. I personally select all the dolls for The Dollery and attend several industry and one-of-a-kind shows. Even now, many of my collectors ask how many dolls I have. To me it is not quantity, but quality. Since the more limited edition and one-of-a-kind dolls are by nature rare and exquisite, I give-up many dolls that I would probably add to my personal collection in order to satisfy the demand of my best customers for these artists’ work. I like to see the dolls go to people who really connect with them.”
“My staff, which consists of between 10 and 20 full time and part-time workers are essential to keeping our business running smoothly, she says “We strive to give the best customer service we can. I think people who are interested in dolls are usually good, sweet people and I feel a certain closeness with them. If I did not have this kind of relationship, I honestly would not stay in this business. I strive to be honest, fair, and communicate with all around me.”
“More than a few times we had collectors who traveled here from Europe,” she says. “They say we have great selection. They planned their vacations to come here and see the dolls in person.”
“The development of The Dollery’s Web site, www.dollery.com, started in 1994. Not many artists had Web sites back then,” Malone says. “My husband, who has been in information system consulting for many years, has developed an appreciation for dolls. He has been very instrumental in the development of our Web site, www.dollery.com. “The Internet has really brought the doll world to people’s home all across the globe. We opened our dollery.com web site for the first time during our doll shows in 1996 and our had our 1st official Annual On-line show in 1998. We have people contacting us from across the globe asking for dolls,” states Malone.
We just released our first DVD highlighting interviews from our last 20th Anniversary show. We plan to do this again this year and include photographs of the dolls in addition to the interviews.”
“Our multi-artist yearly doll show is a major event. We completely re-arrange everything on the showroom floor. The artists display their pieces and the customers come from all corners of the globe.” Malone enthusiastically comments, “We have the longest-running multi-artists doll show in the United States. This year will be our 21st Anniversary show.”
With excitement in her voice, Malone continued, “Believe it or not, planning the annual multi-artist event is a full-time job for three months. I need to coordinate the artists who will be attending and those who will have a trunk shows, what the exclusives and specials will be, photographing the work for the catalogue, arranging lodging, meals, transportation, the advertising, mailing out 7 thousand catalogues, and the night gala’s invitation-only event to preferred customers. Then there is the physical preparation of setting-up the event with draping the store with cloths, setting-up the tables, making a computerized labeled bar coded with the artist identification and price and that usually does not begin until the night before the event. In addition, I need to talk to artist to learn about their edition sizes and pricing. Then it begins with the invitation-only Preferred Customer Cocktail Party where special, one-of-a-kinds are displayed and there is full bar and hors d'oeuvres. The artists love the annual multi-artist event because not only do they meet their biggest fans – their collectors, but they get to ‘camp-out’ with other artists and talk about ideas and compare notes.”