Stuffed with memories: Dolls Hospital shuts doors
A DUBLIN institution will close its doors for the last time today to the heartbreak of its legions of fans, both young and old.
The Dolls Hospital and the Teddy Bears Clinic has been tending to the needs of eyeless ragdolls and leaking teddy bears for more than 30 years.
However, rising commercial rates and other business costs have forced its owners, husband-and-wife team Chris and Melissa Nolan, to make the difficult decision to close for good on South Great George's Street and migrate to the internet.
However, they hope to return to the high street in the future -- but without paying what they call "Celtic Tiger prices" for a new shop.
Yesterday, the Nolans' loyal customer base flocked to the cosy shop to commiserate and snap up cut-price custom-made dolls' houses and every type of accessory imaginable.
From miniature sewing machines and twinkling chandeliers to perfectly scaled-down roll-top baths, complete with matching porcelain chamber pots -- nothing is too mundane or too ornate to recreate for doll-house aficionados.
Lesley Condren, from Rathgar, Dublin, has been a regular visitor to the Dolls Hospital for years and first came over two decades ago to have Peppi, her son Eoin's doll, repaired.
"Peppi's head was fixed here over 20 years ago. He was a doll for my first-born, who is now 29 years old. I've been coming back ever since," she said.
"This place is history itself. There's nothing else like it. It's a fabulous place and I'll be sad to see it go."
Meanwhile, Jonathan O'Brien, from Clondalkin, said he was delighted with the enormous doll's house he bought for his mother, Irene.
"She said at Christmas that she always would have loved to have one. Her sister passed away last week so I got this for her as a little treat," he said.
"We're over 30 years here . . . we're on to the third generation of people coming in," said Chris, as he carefully wrapped a doll's house for a customer.
"Customers turn into friends. It's not like an ordinary shop, it's more individual, especially when we are repairing teddy bears and dolls that hold a lot of sentiment for people."
However, hard economic realities have now forced Chris and Melissa to close up shop. "We're closing because of the overheads and commercial rates," Chris said. "The rates in particular -- it's just up and up all the time. It's happening in retail right around the country."