Teachers stock up on school supplies at the Doll Hospital & Toy Soldier Shop in Berkley Jan. 19 after the store announced that it will be closing after 70 years in business.

Teachers stock up on school supplies at the Doll Hospital & Toy Soldier Shop in Berkley Jan. 19 after the store announced that it will be closing after 70 years in business.

Photo by Erin Sanchez


Doll Hospital & Toy Soldier Shop closing down after 70 years

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published January 22, 2018

 Mary VanGorder, of Birmingham, and her grandchildren, Kaya VanGorder, 9, and Vinny VanGorder, 7, of BIrmingham, look at Schleich animals at the Doll Hospital & Toy Soldier Shop.

Mary VanGorder, of Birmingham, and her grandchildren, Kaya VanGorder, 9, and Vinny VanGorder, 7, of BIrmingham, look at Schleich animals at the Doll Hospital & Toy Soldier Shop.

Photo by Erin Sanchez

 Isabella Inman, 16, of Berkley, helps organize the doll shelves at the Doll Hospital & Toy Soldier Shop.

Isabella Inman, 16, of Berkley, helps organize the doll shelves at the Doll Hospital & Toy Soldier Shop.

Photo by Erin Sanchez

BERKLEY — After 70 years of operating in Berkley, a longtime institution will be closing up shop for good.

The Doll Hospital & Toy Soldier Shop announced on its Facebook page Jan. 15 that it will be closing its downtown location at 3947 W. 12 Mile Road. 

The shop, opened in 1948 by Kay Parish and still run by the same family seven decades later, fixes up dolls and plushes and sells brand-new toys.

Sadly, Jack Zagrodzki, a member of the family, said the business just isn’t profitable to run anymore.

“We were losing money,” he said. “The sales didn’t support the store. There’s been an overall shift in buying habits by parents, leaning away from specialty toys, which are creative type of toys, imagination-driven, child-powered toys. The toy industry in general is a difficult time in 2017. It’s just been getting harder and harder.”

Zagrodzki, who’s been involved with the shop for the last 19 years, said the official closing might come anywhere from nine to 11-and-a-half weeks away, or when everything has been sold off.

The building space, which the family doesn’t own, will be opened up for a new business. Mayor Pro Tem Steve Baker said the city and  the Downtown Development Authority have been in contact with the owners about what business could best fit in the space.

“(There’s a) void in our downtown at the moment, but we’re already actively working to see what options we can do to bring about a new life and vitality to that part of our growing downtown,” he said.

Speaking on the closing of the doll shop, Baker said it’s a loss for the downtown, as it has been a “staple institution for our downtown for generations and provided many a happy Christmas for kids, young and old.”

“Ever since I was a little kid, I remember going there when I was very young and just being in awe of everything that they had,” he said. “The colors, the variety, the spectacle and the great staff. As I grew up, I remember taking old dolls there to be repaired to have their … inner workings brought back to life.”

Zagrodzki said there are no plans at the time to reopen a toy store on a smaller scale.

With the closing of the family business on the horizon, Zagrodzki said there have been many great joys from working at the shop, but the one he keeps coming back to is the relationships that have been fostered and started because of the doll hospital.

“We built a lot of relationships with our customers. We know a lot of them by face, by name. Our staff knows them. We have staff here that’s worked for 20 years here in the store. I think it’s great meeting people and making new relationships, because that’s what business is, but to be very frank, it’s beyond business, because we’re so vested in this as a family — it’s personal. You make personal relationships with your customers. Nothing beats the smile on the face of a child when they discover a new toy. It’s just unbeatable.”