Saturday, May 9, 2015
A Dolly World Visit With Michelle of The Lemon Bay Doll Company
Today I am thrilled to introduce you all to Michelle of The Lemon Bay Doll Company. Michelle agreed to share her story with all of us about how her life long love of dolls turned in to a wonderful family business.
"I guess our story must be similar to that of many of the doll related cottage-industry businesses on Etsy. Quite simply, we are a family who love dolls. We are also a family of hobbyist woodworkers, boat enthusiasts, amateur boat builders, and retired restauranteurs.
If I were to point to where it all started, I would have to say it was Christmas of my 8th year. I am as old as AG’s Julie, if you care to do the math. The week before Christmas, my mother asked me if I had finished my letter to Santa. In my most mature, eight-year-old voice, I informed her that I was getting a bit old to believe in Santa. But, hedging my bets I added, if he was real, I hoped he could bring me a doll that looked like Laura Ingalls. Somehow mom managed to sew a beautiful cloth doll dressed in a prairie outfit. Christmas morning came and under the tree was a package from Santa. Inside I found my beloved Rose, an 18” cloth doll with shoe-button eyes and a pretty pink embroidered mouth, a purple and orange (it is 1974 remember) flowered dress with puffed sleeves, petticoat apron, bloomers, black shoes and a sunbonnet! I was convinced. No one but Santa could have made such a beautiful doll and I decided not to retire the jolly old Saint for at least a year or two more. I also vowed I was going to play with Rose forever
Years passed, and so did my resolve. I guess I was off to college when Rose was finally packed away. While she traveled through life with me, she didn’t see daylight for over 15 years.
I was pregnant with my first child, a girl, when I remembered Rose. She came out of the box and took her place in the nursery as a decoration more than a toy. On my daughter’s first birthday, I decided to see if she would be interested in Rose. Within the first 30 seconds, one of Rose’s button eyes was bit off and her cloth face torn by the razor sharp baby tooth responsible for the blinding. Rose got her first facelift and was promptly put back on the shelf. We had plastic baby dolls for a few years.
When our oldest was four and our second was two, I learned about American Girl. That was it. Whether the girls were ready or not, I was. That Christmas our first two American Girl dolls arrived under the tree. Our oldest is now 14 and still loves doll play as much as her 12 year-old and 8 year-old sisters. Our collection includes 20 dolls, mostly AG though we now have two MyTwinn 23” dolls who play ‘mother’ to the 18” girls. We prefer the historicals. I guess you’d call us old fashioned. We favor their feminine, modest clothes. Ever since Felicity and Elizabeth entered our home, and our hearts, our family has been designing and producing toys for imaginative play: doll houses, beds, school desks, tables, armoires – anything our girls could imagine.
Family and friends had been prodding us for years to try and sell our 18-inch doll accessories to the public at large. We have entrepreneurial blood in our veins and after selling the last of our 35 Italian restaurants, we thought retirement would provide us the time and energy to give it a go. We never intended the business to be more than a way to fund our doll collecting budget.
The final nudge came one afternoon as we watched the girls pushing their dolls in a laundry basket with a yardstick for a mast and a handkerchief for a sail. They had just read the AG Caroline books and as happens so often around our home, they were acting out the adventures with their own dolls.
Christmas, 2012, was fast approaching and they were still playing with the laundry basket schooner. “We should build a boat for the dolls,” we mused, “How hard could it be? We have built several small sailboats and we’ve scaled down many designs for the 18-inch dolls already,” we reasoned, “Why not?” That year, with squeals of delight, the girls found the prototype for our doll skiff under the tree. Four months later, Lemon Bay Schooners
with one listing months later, Lemon Bay Schooners: “Handcrafted Wood Schooner for 18” Dolls.”
Though the skiff will always be one of my favorite items to build, our product line has grown to include over 30 items. In the process, it has outgrown our original name, Lemon Bay Schooners. In April of 2015, we officially changed our DBA to Lemon Bay Doll Company.
We felt it was time to have our name and logo better represent what we do here. When we opened our Etsy shop, we were located in Englewood, Florida, the location of Lemon Bay, and kept our boats in a Lemon Bay marina. We have since moved north on the Gulf. We operate out of our home, a ten-acre farm in the countryside just south of Brooksville, Florida. Our woodshop, no longer in our garage, is now in a converted 1,200 sq. ft. horse barn. I do the sewing in my closet, a walk-in that is about the same size as my first apartment. We gave up parking our cars in the garage when we moved to Brooksville, and now under air, our garage is the home of our shipping department and “Dollville”. “Dollville” is an ever-evolving test ground for all our prototypes and the fertile ground of our children’s doll play – where most of the ideas that develop into our products are born.
At Lemon Bay Dolls, we appreciate the quality of artisan craftsmanship and have always been drawn to the more “natural” look of handcrafted wood toys. Because our children and now yours, will be handling our toys, we are committed to keeping them as non-toxic as possible. We polish our toys with a homemade beeswax finish to bring out the natural colors and grains of the wood or offer them unfinished for the customer to paint. When we create toys for our children's imaginative play, we seek to impart our love of creativity and adventure. We look to provide a vehicle with which we can teach them skills that they will someday apply in life. We hope our toys can offer this same possibility to our customers and their families.
Thank you Michelle for sharing your story with us. To visit The Lemon Bay Doll Company Etsy Shop please click here.
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