Fair   27.0F  |  Forecast »
Edit Module

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:
Edit Module
Edit Module
Advertisement
Edit Module

More »Latest Articles & Blog Posts

Holiday Ham Recipes

Holiday Ham Recipes

Still looking for some ideas for your big holiday dinner? This year, try a new recipe for your Christmas ham – thanks to these ideas from Taste of Home, Pillsbury and more.

Hanukkah Crafts for Kids: Holiday Picture Frame

Hanukkah Crafts for Kids: Holiday Picture Frame

If you're celebrating the holiday and looking for quick and easy crafts for kids, this fun and affordable little keepsake is a great way to display family memories.

Dad Gets Unexpected Reaction to Terrible Christmas Gifts

Dad Gets Unexpected Reaction to Terrible Christmas Gifts

British dad pranks his kids with bad Christmas presents, but didn't get the reaction he was expecting – and it's pretty sweet.

Simple Holiday Family Crafts to Make with On-Hand Material

Simple Holiday Family Crafts to Make with On-Hand Material

Does your family have paper cups, Legos, plastic spoons or toilet-paper rolls lying around? Transform them into angels, snowmen and even a chimney for Santa!

Bath Time Safety Tips for Babies and Toddlers

Bath Time Safety Tips for Babies and Toddlers

What's the best way to bathe your child? How can you keep them safe in the tub? A pediatric doctor at St. John Hospital and Medical Center in Detroit has tips.

Snowman Dessert Recipes: Tasty and Cute Ideas

Snowman Dessert Recipes: Tasty and Cute Ideas

Who doesn't love Frosty the Snowman? Kids will enjoy making – and eating! – some of these adorable and delicious snowman recipes.

Holiday Stamping Favorite Supplies from Stampin' Up

Holiday Stamping Favorite Supplies from Stampin' Up

Crafty company Stampin' Up offers a variety of fun stampers, punches and paper that transform into cool gift tags, cards and other fun DIY projects.

Edit Module
Advertisement
Edit Module
Advertisement
Edit Module
Advertisement