Local Business Spotlight sat down for an interview with Valarie Moyer, owner of Valarie Moyer’s Unique Dolls and Gifts in Carlisle, Pa.
Valarie provided a very engaging interview that exposes some of her unique products and services, as well as, the exciting events that take place at Valarie Moyer’s Unique Dolls and Gifts.
Valarie: We are a gift shop that is unique, in that we sell custom made dolls and other unique items that I hand select. Items such as wooden watches, magic movement clocks, and soy candles that are in tea pots.
We conduct doll repair services. We are the doll hospital, in which we fix antique and vintage dolls, both restorations and repairs.We do make the custom babies, the reborn babies to look like infants, real people’s children.
Also, we offer doll making classes. We have a coffee parlor where we serve coffee the old fashioned way. You sit down with your cup and saucer, and sip on your coffee.
We have a Victorian style tea room that is designed with children in mind. They are able to come in and have a tea party using real china. They get all dressed up, all dolled up, and have fun. And they learn the proper tea etiquette at the same time.
So, that’s kind of like the nutshell of what we are. It’s a unique gift shop with an extra special twist.
LBS: Do you make the dolls yourself, that you sell?
Valarie: I do make some of the dolls myself, the custom made reborn’s, I make. We also carry the better brands of dolls. We carry the Adora Doll, which is now through the Charisma brand company.
We carry the Middleton Doll. Then I have some of the hand-picked dolls which are done by Doll Artists, in which they’re one-of-a-kind pieces.
And some of our gift lines, for example, Pavillion Gift lines, are very special and found in the high end stores. We carry the better line of the dolls and gifts.
LBS: How long has Valarie Moyer’s Unique Dolls and Gifts been in business?
Valarie: We opened our business in 2004. We started out in Palmyra, Pennsylvania. It was a very small shop at that point, with the main theme of dolls and handbags. But, that changed very quickly.
I’ve been playing with dolls pretty much all of my life. I got the idea of taking care of them from my grandmother. She was a doll lover, so we got used to playing with our dolls, playing with our babies.
So, my love for the dolls grew from that point, where talking many years. When she passed away I did acquire her collection, so I enjoyed doctoring them since that day.
LBS: As a Doll and Gift shop, are your current customers local, or do they come from afar?
Valarie: My customers are worldwide, they are not necessarily local. We do have some local customers but most of the people who are coming in are traveling to us, actually coming from a distance.
They find us via the web, of course. They also find us when we do shows and things of that nature. Our repairs, people looking for doll restoration and doll repairs, a lot of them come through web inquiries. It’s not unusual for someone to travel a couple of hours to bring a baby that needs repaired. Or we’ll have a baby show up in the mail from maybe Michigan or Washington State, with the form saying “fix me”, that’s not unusual at all.
Our tea room customers are not necessarily local people either. It’s mostly people traveling looking for something unique to do with their little girls, or as a group. It’s something they can enjoy and relax and just have old fashion type fun.
LBS: What makes Valarie Moyer’s Unique Dolls and Gifts unique?
Valarie: What makes my company unique is, it is just that, unique. You don’t find the old fashion Doll Store anymore. A lot of people will buy their dolls at the superstores or department stores. And, you find them during the Holiday’s, and that’s it.
This store is designed with the doll in mind where you find everything baby. You can find the doll itself, the accessories that go with the doll, the clothing, even the miniatures and doll house furniture. That’s unusual, that’s what is unique.
The gift items that are in the store are things that I hand pick. I travel to various locations looking for unique items. I don’t just have the run of the mill type of things.
What will happen, often you have people that will come and use us as a show room, then search for that item elsewhere. Then they will return because they can’t find it any place else. So I pride myself in finding something unusual.
LBS: So the dolls that you sell, are they collectible type dolls or do people actually buy them for their kids to play with?
Valarie: We have both. We have dolls that are to be used as a collectible, for the older individual because of the nature of them. The one of a kind items of course, I suggest to be used as a collectible because once they are gone you will not be able to get them again. These are pieces that are made one at a time and they are hand made, so it’s not like you can go get them re-manufactured, it doesn’t happen.
LBS: What are the dolls made of, I know porcelain used to be popular, is that still the case?
Valarie: We do have some dolls that are made from porcelain, or porcelain in the combination with the soft body. We also have vinyl dolls which are part vinyl and part soft body, then we have those that are made out of the doll clay, which is actually a sculpt that they are made from. We have dolls that are made out of composition and dolls that are made out of wood. So any type of materials that can be made you will find them here.
LBS: What are some of the main reasons you like living and doing business in the Carlisle area?
Valarie: Carlisle is a very interesting, quaint area to be in. There is a lot of antiquing done in this area.
Also, there is a nice combination of people living here. You have the student population with the college, the high school students and the younger children. There’s the military families that travel about and enjoy unique and individual things Then there is the older population with the several retirement communities, so it’s a nice mixture of people. The borough itself is not so large that it’s impersonal and it’s a nice place to be. People can live in the downtown area, they can walk, and also travel through. It’s a unique place to be.
LBS: Can you tell us about your story, why you started Valarie Moyer’s Unique Dolls and Gifts?
Valarie: I’m an active duty military member at this time. I wanted something that I could start and be able to have when I retire from the military. So I chose to open up a gift shop because I thought that would be something fun to do. I wanted something where I would have a job and have fun.
I’ve had enough of wearing the uniform and the pomp and circumstance. So I wanted something that would be fun and enjoyable, where I can be that perpetual child.
LBS: You said that this was in your family, the doll collecting, correct?
Valarie: Yes, my grandmother was a doll collector and it all started from there. Sometimes people will come in and they ask me, “Is this all of your collection?”, my answer is “no” my collection is at home, a very large collection. I’m not parting with any of my children.
LBS: What have been some challenges in your business thus far?
Valarie: Being here in this area, is difficult. I think it’s just because of who I am. When people come in I don’t know that their expecting to see me, so it gets to be kind of interesting. Being a female and owning a business, that can be a challenge, because sometimes people don’t take you seriously. And, being a woman of color, very often, people don’t take you seriously, that you’re seriously in business. So, that’s one type of challenge I run in to. Am I up to the challenge, yes!
Another challenge is, a lot of times people come in and because it is so unusual, the first thing they want to know is, where do you get your things from. Which is kind of one of those question like, would you go into your Walmart or Bon Ton and ask, “Where do you get your items from?” It’s funny because people say “Are they New?” And it’s like, yes, they are new!
LBS: What are some defining moments that have allowed you to grow to the level you are today?
Valarie: When I started it was just going to be dolls and handbags. Then when I started getting questions on, can you help me, or can you fix this, it grew. The Hospital grew. Then my granddaughter, bless her heart, says, “Grandma, where are we going to have Tea?” “Let’s have Tea with the babies.” So, the Tea Room came to life.
It’s one of those things where, as things happen, I grow. I tell everybody, this is the largest building I’m going to get because if I get a bigger one I’m just going to add other things to it. So I can’t move anymore, I just have to stay here.
LBS: Are there interesting or funny things which have happened that you like to share?
Valarie: One of the interesting things that have happened is with one of the babies that had come in to be repaired. As I’m working on it, I’m inside the head of this doll, and my mind is saying to me, don’t do that, don’t put your hand in there.
As I pulled my hand out there was a lovely Centipede that came crawling out of it. So, that’s one of those , all my Gosh moments!
Some of the other really good moments was situations where someone brings a doll in and they tell you the whole story of how this doll came to be and how much they loved them. It may be cracked or broken, and I fix it and bring it back to life. Then they come in to get it, and the hug and tears after it’s been repaired. Those things to me are just unforgettable.
LBS: So, people really fall in love with their dolls?
Valarie: Yes, they do.
LBS: How has Valarie Moyer’s Unique Dolls and Gifts changed or evolved over the years?
Valarie: As I said, in the beginning it started out as a doll and handbag shop. Then with the requests it became the hospital, the doll shop. Then we started adding other little gift items. Of course, then the Tea Room and Coffee Parlor was born, out of the need for something else.
That’s how it has grown or changed. We’ve expanded Internet wise, with information, and recently our store online for people to be able to adopt their reborn’s. It’s growing and coming along.
LBS: What kind of trends are you noticing in the industry that might affect your customers or the community?
Valarie: The economy has taken a toll on some of the gift items. But what I am noticing is that people are taking their vintage dolls, older dolls, and rehabbing those and passing them down the family lines. It’s is a good thing to see. In years past, people had started buying new and not passing on the old. They just threw them away.
But what I’m seeing now is that people are taking the time to remember when they didn’t have a whole lot, or didn’t have a lot of money to spend. They want to bring back to life their friend, their family treasure, and pass it on to the next generation. So, that’s interesting to see, I really enjoy seeing that trend.
LBS: If someone were looking to purchase a doll, or doll repair services, what advice can you give them to help make the best buying decision?
Valarie: What I look for when someone comes in looking for a doll is, I first of all find out, what is the age of the person they are buying the doll for. If it’s for them, for a child, or what the purpose is behind the gift.
If it’s not a doll, and they want something else that’s a gift item, I just try to get a feel on what the person would like. Then we work with it from there.
With buying a doll, for example, if it’s a younger child then I suggest certain types that will work well for them. One that will last a long time and that the care for it is easy. If it’s for an older individual you do the same thing.
LBS: So they should be prepared to let you know who the doll is for and you can help them make the best buying decision?
Valarie: Yes, a general idea, I don’t have to get too personal, or too deep with it, but you do need a general idea. Because rather than giving them something that may be harmful, give them something that will be useful and that they’ll enjoy playing with for years to come.
LBS: What are some current events or promotions that are taking place at Valarie Moyer’s Unique Dolls and Gifts?
Valarie: Right now the promotions are, for those that visit my Facebook Page, there’s a “Like Me” button there that gives them a discount on the custom babies. They get a price break on the babies that are being offered there.
For the Tea Room, for individuals who find us through Tea Map, there is a coupon there for birthday parties. It gives the child a free meal at the time of their birthday party.
Also, ongoing at all times, we offer a military and senior discount. I do feel that our military personal, uniformed offers I should say, because our police officers and firefighters are counted in that.
LBS: Is there any final words or anything else you would like the customer to know about Valarie Moyer’s Unique Dolls and Gifts?
Valarie: The only thing I can say, for the customer that may be interested in coming to visit the business, is you need to actually be able to come in and take a look. Make sure you’ve got some time to wonder through and enjoy. I often tell people, just peeking in the window doesn’t give you the full story. You gotta be able to walk through and see it. So, come out and give us a visit!
LBS: How can a potential customer find out more about your business?