Friday, May 17, 2013

The Doll House and Toy Store in Scottsdale, Arizona

Well, I tried to track down a place called "JBS Dolls and Gifts." This shop advertised having custom porcelain dolls and doll making supplies, in addition to some collectable doll lines like Zapf and Madame Alexander.  Sounded perfect.  Unfortunately, I didn't call ahead or anything, and when we pulled into the shopping center where the store was supposed to be, there was no doll store.  Just a donut shop (not a bad thing) and a few other miscellaneous retail spots.  My second try was a few miles away in Scottsdale, at a place called The Doll House that Sarah (futuredoll) recommended (thank you, Sarah!).

The Doll House was easy to find and was right where it said it would be.  The store is bright and colorful and filled with high-quality toys and dolls.  A little fake frog croaked at me as I walked in the door, announcing my arrival to the friendly owners.  To my right, I could see a large display of Calico Critters followed by a wall of Breyer horses.   Off in a separate room on the right, I caught a glimpse of a huge Lee Middleton Newborn Nursery.  To my left were games and toys for younger kids.  I could see huge dollhouses at the back of the store.  This is one of those places that makes you happy the second you walk inside.

There were a thousand temptations in this store, but I decided to spend my limited time looking at what seemed to be their specialty--doll house miniatures.

Resin dollhouse miniature, "Jessica."
Here's the outside of the store:

I did ask one of the owners if I could take pictures, and he said of course I could, but for some reason I still felt a little creepy walking around photographing everything.  I did manage to capture a few pictures of the layout in the back of the store.  This is the largest collection of dollhouse furniture I have ever seen:

The large wooden dollhouses on the tops of the shelves are just amazing.  I love this blue one:

The little glass cases at the front of every aisle are chock full of tiny treasures.  The first one has house plants, the next has cakes and food, and the last has a huge collection of resin pets.

Here's a close-up of some of the food:

Look at the detail on those taco salads!

My favorites are the little cakes.  They look so real!

The back of each aisle is lined with a peg board holding hundreds of little bagged items:

These items range from more cakes and food:

To little books and pretend games:

The display cabinets have mostly furniture, but everything is artfully arranged with doll figures and accessories that make it look like a museum diorama.  This first cabinet is the least impressive of the bunch, holding some boxed Melissa and Doug furniture, among other things:

The other cabinets are filled with more expensive, beautifully made furniture.  This cabinet holds mostly living room pieces:

A little closer:

This cabinet displayed dining room and kitchen items:

I love the realistic resin doll figures.  I had never seen these before.  They don't move, but they look great with the intricate furniture.

This is the type of doll family I am used to seeing at doll house stores:

They're so unrealistic, there's no way I would ever build a doll house, take the time to paint and furnish it, and then let a family like this move in.  No way. The babies aren't even cute--in fact, they scare me a little:

Those babies have the faces of angry eight-year-olds.  In contrast, the resin figures look great and actually add realism to the mini displays.  I love this woman's smile and casual clothes:

There's even a pregnant woman displayed with some of the amazing nursery furniture:

I love everything in this display!
These dressmaker forms are amazing--with beautiful old fashioned sewing machines to go with them:

The collection of musical instruments was my favorite--especially the tiny organ!

I wanted to purchase a few things so that I could show them to you up close.  I also figured that it's never too soon to get started on furnishing that large blue dollhouse.   I ended up buying my favorite miniature resin figure, a girl named Jessica, and a few toys for her to play with.

Before I show you Jessica and her toys, though, look at what crawled on me as I got back into the car:

Itsy bitsy spider.
It's about the size of a flea.  It is TINY.  Thank goodness.  As I watched it crawl on my pants, I thought it was pretty cute.  It's so small that I couldn't really see any detail.  It looked a bit like one of those bugs that hops around in the grass in Maine.  If you look at it up close, though, it's hairy and has at least four eyes.  It looks like a mini hairy jumping spider.  We don't have those in Maine.  No, thank you.

Anyway, here's Jessica:

I love her facial expression and her sitting position: 

She's fidgeting with her hands, almost like she's a little nervous or shy.

She looks like a sweet kid.

I also like the style and detail in her outfit.  She's wearing a jean dress over a pink hoodie and has matching pink tights:

If you look close enough, the painted details on her face are a bit sloppy, but it is almost impossible to see this in real life.

I especially like her half profile:

Of course the first toy I chose for Jess is a miniature doll:

This would be a large doll in Jessica's world--even larger than an 18" play doll like Carpatina or EuroGirl.  In my world, though, she is miniscule, and it is amazing how much detail is captured:

She's wearing a white drop-waisted dress with a sage green sash and a lace collar:

There's even a little floral accent on her collar:

Underneath the dress, she has lace pantaloons glued to her legs and a lace underskirt.  Her feet are hard and painted to look like she's wearing tall black boots:

Her face is hand painted and her hair is cut to look like it's in ringlets.  In the pictures, I can see lots of tiny little pieces of hair stuck to her dress, but these are too small to see in real life.

There's not a lot of detail in her hands, but they are made out of the same hard material (resin?) as her head:

The miniature books were among my favorite things at this store.  I was eyeing an Eloise book that had actual printed words inside.  I got sidetracked by the full Twilight series, and ended up buying this set because Stephenie Meyer is from Arizona:

The cover detail is fantastic, and I love how all of the books look together.

Unfortunately, I was too distracted to ask if these books were printed on the inside, and I was bummed to find out that they are not.  I do love having a local author's miniature work, but I might have preferred the Eloise book overall because of the exceptional detail on the pages.

Jessica might be a little young for Twilight, but she'll probably love it in a year or two.

The next thing  chose was a mini chess set.  I actually just bought this set for the board, because I could see that the pieces didn't have much detail.  In retrospect, $9.99 was way too much to pay for this, considering that I wasn't planning to use the pieces.

The board is magnetized, which makes it easy to set up.

The two biggest problems with this toy are that the pieces are slightly too big for the board, and some of the pieces look the same, so you could never actually play chess with them:

The two bishops look different, too, which is strange:

A horse, a horse!  My kingdom for a horse!
To replace the pieces, I bought this much fancier looking set that even comes in its own flocked case:

I like this set better because the pieces are black and white and they are intricately carved to look like the traditional chess pieces.  They are a little smaller, too, and so they fit the board better.  They are so small that I needed to use tweezers to get them set up:

The problem with these miniatures is that I am not sure they were supposed to come out of the case.  I had to pull on some one them a little, and they came out with flocking stuck to them and maybe some glue residue.  

The flocking and glue makes it hard for them to stand up straight.

As with all of these tiny things, though, the imperfections are difficult to see with the naked eye.

Jessica is ready for a game, if someone has the patience to set up the other side of the board.

My son was eyeing some miniature dogs that reminded him of our mutt Felix, but I saw this set and couldn't resist:

I love goldfish, and this pair is so nicely done.  The two fish look very realistic from all angles except this one, where they look a little smooshed:

From the other sides they look wonderful:

I have a soft spot for Siamese cats.  This fellow is carved out of resin and has some wonderful details.  He might be a bit too shaggy for a real Siamese, and his ears aren't quite pointy enough, but his eyes and his coloration are great.

I am so impressed by the detail in these resin sculptures.

The eye paint is sloppy, but I can't really tell this from far away.  I wish his eyes were a little crossed.  That would be perfect!

This set-up reminds me of when I was about Jessica's age, and I had a beloved goldfish named Pumpkin and a wonderful Siamese named Yang.

My son has been playing a lot of Backgammon on this trip, so I grabbed a miniature version of that game, too:

All of the pieces of this set were stuck to a bright yellow board using some kind of grey putty that was very easy to remove. 

Here's everything in the set:

I didn't think the dice would actually fit into the shaking cup....

But they do!

The playing pieces are made out of cardboard and are very small.  I decided to leave them in the bag:

This set is a bit of a disappointment for $10.  The board is just a flimsy cardboard square, and it doesn't fold to fit inside the box, so there's no way to store this game with all of the parts together.

It's slightly too big to be perfectly in scale with Jess, but it's close.

I chose this last item because I couldn't believe how small it was.  This is a set of Jacks that is amazingly in scale with Jessica:

A prudent warning:

Um, yeah.
Look at these tiny things!

Here's Jessica with all of her toys next to a pen from the hotel:

... and next to my morning coffee for another size reference:

The Doll House is a wonderful store.  I probably spent about an hour at this store, but it felt like five minutes.  I'd love to go back and spend an entire afternoon looking at all of the goodies.  The shop has something to offer people of all ages.  Even my teenaged son was able to occupy himself for quite a while looking at the games and admiring some of the miniatures.  It would be so fun to bring a younger child to the well-stocked and appealing Lee Middleton Nursery.  The two owners were at the register, and they are both very friendly and helpful. Several of the customers seemed like they came in frequently (can you blame them?) and had a nice rapport with the owners.  My guess is that for the locals, there's an appealing social element to stopping by this store.  The only possible problem with The Doll House is that it's built on the surface of the sun.  I mean, Arizona is a whole new level of hot.  Especially for a Mainer.

Seeing a collection of dollhouse furniture of this quality and magnitude was fascinating.   The gorgeous wooden houses re-ignited my dreams of starting a dollhouse project.  It doesn't seem like a hobby for impatient people, though.  Building a nice dollhouse could take years, and then seeking out just the right furniture and accessories could take even longer, especially since stores like this one are getting hard to find.  The biggest obstacle for me with this kind of project would be the cost.  While each individual miniature that I purchased seemed inexpensive, I dropped a pretty serious amount of money at this store without even trying.  It's a little scary how those tiny things add up.

The thing is, there's something about doll dioramas and realistic miniatures that is irresistible to me.  I have dreamed on and off throughout my life about having my own dollhouse, but have never really found the inspiration to get started.  I think a big part of my reluctance to launch into a project like this is that I have never found a doll family that I can identify with.  The best discovery I made at The Doll House was Jessica.  Her shy smile and nervous hands might coax me into building her a house and finding her a family.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I have a little figure that looks like he could be Jessica's brother! Well, he has a turtle shell.. So turtle brother !

    I loved all the mini things ^^ Hope you enjoy the rest of the trip!

  3. Oh my god! I am so impressed!:0) I want to visit that store too! I really love doll props, these are just wonderfull! They are so tiny! And I agree with you, the babies look weird, I have one pretty similar to them. My niece gave it to me, I think it is made by Mattel, the face looks like older Barbie dolls. Thank you for writing such an interesting review, I really enjoyed reading it, Emily!(:

  4. Oh my goodness! going to a store like that would be soo cool! i've been to hobby stores that sold a few amounts of this stuff but nothing! like what that store sells. Those little jacks that you bought, i'd have been so SCARED to take them out because of how small they are. I was shocked when i seen the picture of you having one of them on your finger. Anyway this was a great! review and i enjoyed seeing all the amazing miniatures and doll house furniture.

  5. I would go ballistic in a store like that, I absolutely LOVE miniatures. :) I didn't even know stores like that were around anymore! I love the little Twilight books and chess set, plus the fishbowl looks absolutely amazing. :) Arizona's right next to my state so I might have too pay this place a visit sometime, Thanks so much for sharing!

  6. You would have had to drag me out of that store, love it!!! I am a sucker for miniatures:)

  7. Wow, WOW! I would just have to move in to that store! I'm amazed at the quality of the miniatures!

  8. i love miniatures (dolls+cool tiny stuff=perfect hobby), as for Jessica I don't think that she will be getting board soon (ditto for you miniatures are a bit addictive) have fun

  9. We have a similar store about an hour away... my little brother loves to set everything up and take pictures

  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

  11. I could spend hours and hours in that shop. I love the Twilight books even though they are blank on the inside. I crave a dolls house but I think that I would become way too obsessive about it and it would ultimately cost a fortune. Perhaps it would be a nice hobby for my retirement. I dream of recreating my old Sindy house and I am always seeing the furniture on Ebay. If only I had the space. It would be amazing to have a little house to store my 11" dolls. I would fill it up with super cute things. I am not sure that Blythe, Cutie Pops and the MH girls would make such good room mates though :D It could make for some interesting stories.

    Something like the Blythe house here would make me very very happy indeed.

  12. The store seemed so amazing, I could probably spend an entire day in there. Love all the miniatures but the doll is my favorite.

  13. How fun!! Love the bits and pieces. I never had a doll house growing up, closest I had was a Barbie plane and Fisher Price little people barn. Maybe someday I will get one, this review has me thinking about it again.
    That is a great store-I'm not aware of any like that near me. If i'm ever again in Az, I will have to look it up.
    Thanks, Tina

  14. Emily-
    So glad you enjoyed it! It sure is lovely and it is such a treat to recommend another ASTRA member. They have been around for 30 years and are a community staple.
    I posted your review on my FB fan page, shared it with #dollchat, and sent it on to The Doll House so everyone could enjoy your wonderful experience.

  15. This is such a wonderful article. Thank you so much. We had no clue that you would be writing up such a wonderful review, actually, we had no idea you would be writing anything. We were so glad that you were so comfortable in the store, had a great time and we hope to see you on your next trip to Arizona. You really should thing about coming in January. The weather is much better here than in Maine at that time of year.

  16. Doll houses are so much fun, and I'm pretty sure you can buy them pre-built sometimes (they're obviously more expensive like that) or get a simpler design to start out with. has tons of stuff.

  17. to envy, I could get addicted has this miniature are so adorable

  18. maybe you could get jessica an older sister so someone else will be enjoying the twilight books because sadly jessica most likely won't be anytime soon

  19. That store is like heaven Emily, seriously. If I ever go to the US you'll find me there (and on your doorstep of course, to investigate your collection hehehe)
    So many amazing, little, detailed things. O gosh, I think I'd spend at least 3 hours a week there. I wish there was such a store here!
    Also, at first I thought that spider was some kind of cute miniature... Well, I can tell you that you must be glad I wasn't there because I'd freak out if I saw that thing from up close. Spiders are my worst nightmare xD
    Thanks for sharing all these pictures ^^

  20. Many companies that cater to kids offer storage solutions for children's toys. Traditional wooden toy boxes with a hinged lid are still popular designs.

  21. That jacks and ball set is exquisite. I have had a fascination with doll houses and miniatures for as long as I can remember but I live in the DC area with my family and this means I am highly unlikely to make it to that store. Anyway, I have sat and combed through your blog since discovering it two days ago and I wanted to tell you thank you so much for sharing the wealth of perspective and knowledge you have built about toy and doll collecting. My daughter is 5yo and we are in the throes of American Girl and the Fisher Price Loving Family collective. My daughter's love for collecting and dolls is obvious though and we might soon be getting into fashion dolls that are not Barbie. Your blog has convinced me that the Liv or even the Monster High dolls might be the way to go (and I was previously very against the Monster High dolls). My daughter has been hinting at wanting to get Winx dolls but after your incredibly thorough review I am thinking I don't want to indulge what I think will be a brief fandom on her part. Anyway, I have linked your blog from mine in my sidebar "favorite places of the web" (I hope that's OK) and just wanted to thank you for keeping up such a fantastic resource.

  22. I have a very old dollhouse that I played with when I was younger. I used the Madame Alexander dolls from mcdonalds to play with in the dollhouse xD it's surprisingly still in good condition despite how old it is. I would have loved all those resin figures when I was young

  23. I love your blog. This is a cool site and I wanted to post a little note to tell you, good job! Best wishes!!!

  24. Jumping spiders are cute and friendly critters. That little lady was probably so lost though. They have a home that they like to go back to.

  25. Wow. Thank you for sharing. I planned to shop dollhouse furniture and saw your info and have been reading it and enjoying your photos for a few hours. Definitely will be visiting this store as I live in the Phoenix area. Ive found a love fir antiques since moving to Tucson in 2005. I love Victorian antiques. Specifically furniture in excellent condition and wooden high polished dollhouse furniture. I plan to complete a full multi level dollhouse for my daughter as a housewarming gift in future. Though we will project finding all the pieces. She only 14 so we have much time. I plan to create one that we can open to reveal all rooms and lighting. We hope to hang on a main wall fir presentation. Anywho, thanks for all the info.

  26. Perhaps you already mentioned this and I just missed it, but did they have 1/2 scale miniatures there? I recently inherited a 1/2 scale dollhouse from my mom, and although I love the space-saving benefits of that scale, it can be hard to find good, realistic pieces for it.