After remodeling, Springhouse Dolls reopens

Jody Buckley shows some of the Madame Alexander dolls she has for sale at Springhouse Dolls and Gifts. - Charlie Bermant/Staff Photo
Jody Buckley shows some of the Madame Alexander dolls she has for sale at Springhouse Dolls and Gifts.
— image credit: Charlie Bermant/Staff Photo

Springhouse Dolls and Gifts and the adjoining Victorian Rose Tea Room isn’t for everyone.

Specifically, the 49 percent of the population known as “men” might find the place a bit too frilly, flowery and female.

Store manager Jody Buckley acknowledges this preference, saying “a lot of guys don’t want to walk into a pink building.”

Once inside, men enjoy the combination of porcelain knick-knacks, dolls and gifts, according to Buckley. And even if the tea room’s lunch leans toward salads and light sandwiches, the food is well-prepared and tasty.

The 4-year old store, located on Bethel Avenue in Port Orchard, re-opened this week after a month-long renovation. During this time the menu was enhanced with some guy-friendly food.

“We added a few things that guys will really like,” Buckley said. “They won’t go away hungry.”

The shop began its life as a doll store and evolved toward offering unique gift items. Greeting cards were added along the way, and as the regular customer base grew, it became necessary to offer a constant, changing variety.

If someone comes in every week, they need to see something new each time or they will get bored.

Buckley doesn’t mind, saying, “You need to spend money in order to make money.”

The slow economy has made an impact, and when gas prices rose last year the regular customers made less frequent visits. They did, however, still come in steadily.

Even so, there are some things that remain consistent, even in tough times. People will always have birthdays, making birthday cards a necessity. And they will always take pleasure in a unique — albeit frilly — gift.

This has kept the shop afloat, even if the doll business has relied more on the the Internet.

“Shops can’t compete with online doll sales,” Buckley said.

Two days after the re-opening, the tea room was jammed for lunch, and most of the regulars had returned.

Buckley, who has worked at the store for four years, has also managed to hang on to the same staff during this period, most of the 16 people working at the store have been there longer than she has.

The renovation has been planned for some time. The kitchen needed expansion, and the wallpaper replaced.

The rug was also wearing out and buckling in several places, which endangered the senior citizens who make up much of the store’s customer base.

The timing was also prompted by Cedar Cove Days, a town-wide event that celebrates the work of local author Debbie Macomber — who, not coincidentally, is both the shop’s owner and Buckley’s mother.

The event, scheduled for August 26-29, is expected to draw Macomber fans from across the country — again, despite the economy.

The shop will benefit from this, as it recreates the mood of Macomber’s novels and sells merchandise that reflects her taste, which is what draws readers to her books in the first place.

Buckley characterizes this by saying “there is a wholesomeness here.” And fans who want to get a little piece of Macomber could do no better than to visit a shop she owns, managed by her daughter.

Buckley welcomes growth, but not all of its side effects. She recognizes the need to put a theft prevention device at the door, but is aware that such a move will dilute the homey feeling.

Still, the shoplifting problem isn’t as severe as in some other places.

“Our customers are happy here,” she said. “We don’t get a lot of angry people coming in. There are a lot of angry people in places like Wal-Mart, if you accidentally bump into them they get even angrier. Here, if you bump into someone you both apologize, strike up a conversation and maybe make a friend.”

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