Light Rain   51.0F  |  Forecast »

The Doll Hospital & Toy Soldier Shop in Berkley

A staple for decades, this huge kids store is a family magnet, offering high-quality games and dolls, outdoor play sets, teachers stuff and lots more

Did you know one of the biggest independent specialty toy stores in the United States is right here in Oakland County? That's right: The Doll Hospital & Toy Soldier Shop in Berkley has been a family-owned staple for generations, stocking some of the coolest kids' play goodies in town – not to mention, restoring beloved keepsakes – at its whopping 30,000-square-foot space.

This veritable "toy land" has deep roots – and a boatload of niches, from outdoor play sets and trampolines to arts and crafts, games, early learning toys and tons of brands parents and kids love.

A long tradition

The tale starts back in 1948, when founder Kay Parish made a bold move, says her granddaughter, Stacey Zagrodzki – now the store's president.

"She went and asked my grandpa one night, 'Can I have $2,000?'" Parish, a hairdresser married to a teacher, wanted to buy a "doll hospital" in Detroit. "She must have got the money," Zagrodzki laughs. "She was a feisty little lady," at 4'11" tall – and one who "definitely had a business mind."

The Doll Hospital & Toy Soldier Shop

"Dr. Kay," as patrons called her, quickly learned the art of darning mini dresses, mending limbs and curling faux hair. Her dolls dazzled in glass cases.

"My grandma had her white gloves" for folks to handle dolls – after washing their hands, Zagrodzki says. "When you bought it, you had something really special."

Zagrodzki and her family got into the thick of the business in the early 1970s, when her dad, Jack, bought the toy store and took over, moving it to Berkley.

Unique toys and more

From a tiny one-room, one-woman show, the store now booms, with lots of hands-on fun for kids. It was Jack who launched the "toy soldier" element – and also brought in loads classic toys from Europe (where the family previously lived).

With both stock and the staff, unique volume is the specialty. Less than 5 percent of the toys overlap with big-box fare, and some 15 family members work here (give or take, if you're counting seasonal work). The crew includes siblings, spouses, nephews, even grandkids. Jack's still the CEO and runs the shop's busy ReallyGreatToys.com website.

Some of the quality brands you'll find include Alex, LEGO, Manhattan Toy and Melissa & Doug – plus Playmobil, Creativity for Kids, Madame Alexander and lots more. There's a teachers' store and backyard play sets, too.

Doll repairs remain

Yet doll repairs remain a staple – though, now, it's mostly sentimental. "They might spend 20 times what it's worth to get it fixed," Zagrodzki says. "Some of the work we do is museum-quality."

Pros Janice and Janet have restored well-loved dollies aplenty. And some quirkier stuff, too – like a four-foot Jesus statue and a "rush repair" on a plush monkey for "one of Detroit's toughest athletes. I won't name names," laughs Zagrodski.

But don't worry. There are always fresh surprises at this family fave!

Add your comment:
Advertisement

More »Latest Articles & Blog Posts

Make It Review: Rolli Stamps and Project Idea

Make It Review: Rolli Stamps and Project Idea

This cool new inked stamper product by Funnybone Muse is sure to be a family craft staple. Here's what it's about, and how to use it to jazz up a note card.

Craft Roundup: Muppets Most Wanted Inspired DIY Fun

Craft Roundup: Muppets Most Wanted Inspired DIY Fun

These cool DIY projects are a blast for kids and families to make, all celebrating Disney's latest movie spin on the classic Muppet gang.

Tax Tips for Parents: Deductions and Credits to Know About

Tax Tips for Parents: Deductions and Credits to Know About

April 15 is the IRS tax filing deadline, aka Tax Day. Whether you've got a baby or a college kid, here's how to get the most out of your income tax returns.

9 Month Bump Maternity Apparel Boutique in Trenton

9 Month Bump Maternity Apparel Boutique in Trenton

This downriver area consignment store is stocked with lots of trendy gently used options for new and expecting moms, plus handmade baby gifts and more.

Glass Action! Ferndale Mom Makes Cool Stained Glass Stuff

Glass Action! Ferndale Mom Makes Cool Stained Glass Stuff

Along with her iconic rock 'n' roll nightlights, Carey Gustafson makes custom portraits of kids, parents, pets and more, perfect for a cool family gift

Kid-Friendly Matzo Recipes for Passover

Kid-Friendly Matzo Recipes for Passover

Make this Jewish holiday memorable for your family with these creative recipes – from matzo grilled cheese to matzo lasagna.

Paint Wood-Turned Egg Forms for an Easter Treat that Lasts

Paint Wood-Turned Egg Forms for an Easter Treat that Lasts

Why not try a more eco-friendly version of plastic eggs with your family this holiday season? This DIY project is super customizable and makes great decor.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement