Imaginary kingdom: Toys, Dolls and Minis has evolved into interactive store for all ages

Visiting a toy store can be a magical experience. For adults, it is a step back to a simpler time. For children, it is an adventure, a place to explore.

“When most people come through the door, the first thing they say is, ‘This reminds me of a toy store when I was a kid,’ or ‘I haven’t seen these types of toys in years,’” says Dawn Reese, owner of Toys, Dolls and Minis, an independent toy store located in the Grand Pacific Junction Historic Shopping District in Olmsted Falls.

Dawn Reese owner of Toys, Dolls and Minis“I have a lot of new grandparents who come in who haven’t bought toys for years,” says Reese. “They not only discover toys they didn’t know existed, but they see toys they remember having as a child, like Strawberry Shortcake, and [then] often buy one for themselves.” 

Reese is no stranger to the doll and toy industry. “I started making porcelain dolls in 1989 and was selling them to people I knew” recalls Reese. “When I opened Dolls and Minis in Wellington in January 2007, my focus was still dolls and dollhouses, but I also started carrying toys.”

In June 2012, Reese moved Toys, Dolls and Minis to a larger space in Olmsted Falls and focused more on toys than dolls. “It’s a changing world,” she says. “Playing with dolls and collecting dolls is not as popular as it used to be. I don’t sell collector dolls anymore because there isn’t a market for them. Most of the dolls I sell now are play dolls.”

The shop is packed on two floors of almost every toy, book, game imaginable. Reese carries educational and traditional toys, puzzles, board games, children’s books, dolls and doll clothes, and dollhouses and miniatures.

She prides herself on personally selecting toys that “fit” in her store. “I don’t carry many of the trendy or licensed toys that you find at a Target or Walmart,” she explains. “Most of my toys are very traditional and have some educational value."

“I also look for toys that can be passed down through generations,” Reese continues. “All of the toys I carry I would gladly give to my grandchildren.”

Imagine that
Reese’s shop truly is a hidden treasure, say her customers.

“My four-year-old son and I discovered Toys, Dolls and Minis about two years ago while taking a walk through Olmsted Falls,” says Annette Shumaker, a resident and frequent customer. “He saw a train table through the window and was very excited and wanted to go inside and play. Now he asks to go there just about every day.”

Some of Reese’s most popular toys are Calico Critters and wooden trains. In addition to two play tables, Reese always has other toys out that encourage open-ended play.

“My goal is to get kids away from technology,” says Reese. “The toys in my store won’t play for the children; the children have to play with them. When they are looking at a computer screen or playing with something electronic, they press a button, and it plays for them. Here, they have to use their imagination to create the play.”

Reese knows her toys inside and out. “When the toys come in, I play with them, try them out because I can’t sell them to a customer if don’t know how they work,” she explains. “If they don’t meet my standards and I’m not comfortable selling them, I send them back.”

Dollhouses and miniatures
Devoted dollhouse enthusiasts will argue that collecting dollhouses and miniatures is an adult hobby that they take very seriously. It is only in relatively modern times that dollhouses have also become children’s toys.

“When I was a child, I always had a dollhouse, and especially loved the one my Dad built for me from scratch,” says Dolores Martz, an avid dollhouse and miniature collector. “The first time I visited Toys, Dolls and Minis, I was hooked. I was so enchanted by all the miniatures and doll houses on display.”

Martz’s goal was to build a dollhouse that was reminiscent of her childhood. “Dawn worked with me for more than 11 months to literally build and furnish my dollhouse to resemble the 1930s—the era when I grew up. She is so knowledgeable and supportive and will help you create the dollhouse of your dreams.”

Toys, Dolls and Minis is one of only about 30 remaining dollhouse stores in the U.S. and Canada. According to Reese, you have to be willing to change with the times.

“Young people don’t do hobbies anymore, so I don’t see collector dolls and dollhouses coming back anytime soon,” she says. “Now I am more of a traditional toy store. I have expanded my toys to include older children, carry some hobby supplies, and still specialize in dollhouses—which traditional toy stores do not do.”

There is something for everyone at Toys, Dolls and Minis. “You actually have to go in the store to realize it is more than just dolls and minis,” says customer Shumaker. “You can touch, feel, and play with a toy before you purchase it instead of just looking at it on a shelf. It is the personal attention and service and the variety of toys that makes Dolls and Minis so unique.” 

Shumaker and her son visit Toys, Dolls and Minis about once a week, but it isn’t just for the toys. “Toys, Dolls and Minis has become like a second home to my son,” she says. “He has his own train table now, but he still loves going there to play and is he is so comfortable speaking with Dawn. He’ll show her something he is playing with and say, ‘Look at what I have Dawn,’ and its adorable how she engages with him. She is like a second mom to me and like a grandmother to my son. This is how much we love this store."

Toys, Dolls and Minis is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and is located at 8068 Columbia Road, Olmsted Falls, (440) 647-1519.

Read more articles by Jo Donofrio.

Jo Donofrio is a freelance writer and marketing professional with an interest in medical and health care topics and human interest stories. Her work has been published in various outlets including Cleveland Magazine, MD News, Angels on Earth (Guideposts), The Plain Dealer, Old Brooklyn News and many more. She also teaches a business writing workshop at Cleveland State University.