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The Doll Palace General Hospital Story:How It All Got Started

Dr. Ken Smith, D.D.R., "Doctor of Doll Repair" and Dr. Esther L. Smith, D.D.B., "Doctor of Doll Babies" in the Nursery of The Doll Palace General Hospital with all the "newborns". With all the new baby dolls continually coming and going, these folks, along with the stork flyin' in and out, stay real busy.


Ken and Esther married in 1981. Esther went with Ken three years later to Titusville, Florida to meet Ken's family in 1984. While in Titusville, they went to a local flea market and picked up a few little dolls. Then they went over to the mall and Esther saw some life-sized twin dolls she liked and Ken tagged along, sitting in the aisle disinterested while Esther became more and more attached to the life-like twin dolls FROM SPAIN, she looked at and held. When you put the two dolls together, the technology inside made them giggle. When you separated the dolls, they actually cried. They were a set of twins, and Ken almost instinctively said no, but Esther just couldn't get those dolls out of her head. She even brought back Ken's sister, Melba Joy , the next day to see them.

Seeing how Esther was in love with the dolls, Ken's sister Melba Joy pleaded on her behalf, but Ken still said no, "Esther's not into dolls and had Five boys at home. She's never had any dolls in her life before. Why in the heck does she think she needs them now?", Ken retorted. Esther responded, "If I can't have them for me, then how about for my sister, Matrha Haug 

of Camano Island Wa. because they looked just like my sisters kids?" Esther then called home and talked to her sister about it and she agreed to buy them. With their new limit credit card, Ken and Esther bought the dolls. By then, Esther really felt bad. After three days of working on Ken for dolls that she really wanted for herself, her sister was now getting the very dolls that she couldn't have, and even worse, her sister was getting the last set.

Ken just couldn't take it any more. Seeing how unhappy Esther was, and finally understanding how much these dolls meant to her, he turned right around 180-degrees and agreed to get the dolls, just so she'd be happy. They immediately called another store 90 miles away in Orlando, and borrowed Ken's Dad's car and the way Ken tells the story, "We made a 90 mile speed run just to get them." When Ken and Esther finally got there, and they brought out the dolls she  wanted, there were some other dolls sitting on the counter that stole their hearts too: a mulatto baby doll, a Tunene anatomically correct set of boy and girl dolls, and several others too. By this time, Ken had gotten deeply involved too and he too, just had to have 'em. By the time, they went back home on the airplane that year in August  1984, they had bought nine dolls!


When they got back home, Ken and Esther came to a big family dinner at Esthers Sister, Martha and Frain Houg's  Home  on Canano Island, Washington, and everyone couldn't wait until Esther went to the car to bring all the new dolls in. Once she brought the dolls into the house, Esther's sister Martha went nuts. Not only did she want the twin dolls but she wanted the seven others as well, even though she hadn't ever been into dolls before either! At first Esther said no, but Martha kept pushing and she finally broke down and sold them all to her.

By this time, now that Ken and Esther were into it, they started looking into getting more dolls to replace Esther's set she had sold to her sister Martha. They called the company that made the dolls and asked how they could get more of them. They were politely told that if they wanted to buy more dolls, then they would have to buy them in quantity. Ken and Esther promptly got a loan to purchase all the dolls and then had to seriously think about what they were going to do with all of them. Ken was still working at Boeing full-time and Esther was still a working mother of FIVE BOY'S; They had tried another small business, a jewelry business, but it had never gotten off the ground, but this doll thing keep pulling on them.

By this time it was around October, so they decided to have a doll party. Esther invited all the people that she knew and sat the dolls all around the living room. There wasn't even any room for the  people to sit! Esther was over extended that day and had to leave for a Tupperware party leaving Ken at home with all the goods. At first Ken refused to have anything to do with selling a bunch of dolls, but Esther insisted, explaining that all he really had to do was take the people's money and give them their dolls. After all, she had gone to the trouble of putting price tags on all the dolls herself. Then Esther left for her Tupperware party. By the time she came back, Ken was grinning from ear to ear. All the dolls were gone and he had orders for several more!


The business really began to mushroom right from there. The first year they did flea markets for exposer and set up shop in Doce's mall just North of Seattle. They had touched a button both in themselves and others around the doll phenomenon that had launched them into an exciting new direction. "Maternal instinct is what it has to do with", claims both Ken and Esther. When people see these realistic looking dolls, and cuddle them, something incredibly special happens inside. People of all ages, and from all backgounds just melt when they see and hold them. Even the most masculine of men are moved, sometimes talking their wives into buying a doll just so they can have it around the house themselves. For Esther, it was the fact that after giving birth to five boys, she had never had any girls, and now with life-size girl dolls sitting all around her living room, she could finally make part of her wishes come true. The girl dolls could be right there for her to experience them..and they would never grow up in Esther's own special dream "doll palace". Hence the name "Doll Palace" became a living reality.

By 1985, with business starting to boom, Ken and Esther had to build a warehouse adjacent to their home that they turned into their first Doll Palace shop and showroom. The middle room was clothing and accessories, and  Inventory,the third room was for doll repair, turning the name of the business into The Doll Palace General Hospital. In 1986, in the second year, Doll Palace General Hospital had to build a second warehouse. By 1987, it was time to move into Doce's Mall in Edmonds, and then finally into Country Village Mall. Then, in 1988, the company had to build a third warehouse to hold even more dolls! Ken and Esther continued to do flea markets, bargain fairs, and doll shows and the news of the Doll Palace General Hospital began to spread by word of mouth across the state and across the country.


When you talk to Esther about the key to Doll Palace General Hospital's she'll tell you unabashedly that it has to do with plain old-fashioned hard work and treating customers well. "We'll go out of our way to meet our customers needs on a one-to-one basis. No matter how busy we are, we will always take the time to make sure that customers are served well", says Esther.

The company had its own share of challenges, but Ken and Esther have always treated them as opportunities in disguise. One time in 1988, when they ordered 200 pull-string dolls, the supplier shipped 1950 dolls by mistake with defective PULL  strings inside the dolls.. FROM Burjusa of Spain: The supplier sweetened the deal and they ended up keeping them all, but they couldn't sell these dolls for two months because they were so deflective. Then Ken and Esther sat down together and came up with a winning idea: Dr. Ken Smith, D.D.R. -i.e. "Doctor of Doll Repair" - would end up performing a little "surgery" by putting different cuter heads on the dolls and replacing the Pull strings or putting heart-beats in them , and Esther would end up dressing up the dolls real cute, and they sold well! Back east in New York at The International Toy Fair, , the owner of the company that sold them the original dolls couldn't believe the results, and he couldn't even recognize his own dolls, The way Esther had Upgraded, with different clothing, eye lashes, pacifier!

Currently, the Doll Palace General Hospital stocks over 3000 dolls and 40 major product lines and provides numerous different services to doll collectors and doll enthusiasts of all kinds. The customers the company serves make up a broad spectrum of people: kids, moms, dads, husbands, wives, grandmothers, cousins, nieces and nephews, aunts, uncles, and even grandfathers from all walks of life. The Doll Palace General Hospital, with over 4800 square feet of retail space in Bothell Washington's colorful Country Village mall, is now is the largest independently owned and operated retail doll store on the west coast and possibly in the entire United States. 
"Even with all the doll shows that we continue to do, and even with all the hours that we put in together at our physical store, doing business on the web makes our products and services available to more people", adds Esther. Now, after 15 years of the fueling the doll palace dream, raising the FIVE boys, and developing the business together, they are starting to see eye-to-eye on quite a few things, and it shows. Now with the DollPalace8k.com  America's local and national collectors of designer dolls and doll accessories are in for a real treat! Welcome to: The Doll Palace!!

Update:

As of January 20  th 2005 We had to close The Doll Palace At: Country Village Mall,in Bothell, due to a number of things, as Poor health on Ken"s Part .

We moved everything back to WHERE THE DOLL PALACE STARTED in 1984, OUR HOME, Where we have three warehouses built next to our home, FULL!!

We have been doing a Few Doll Shows in the Northwest trying to get rid of all the Inventory that we had, After 22 years.

Esther has had to go to work outside the home to try to make ends meet and Ken Is at Home taking in Doll Repairs , without the high overhead of a 4,800 square foot store and employees.

We had a ( 5 ) Tents and a yard sale last August 2005, in our front yard and we restocked every night from the warehouses, and we ran the sale for the whole month of August, 2005 and we did it again this year,trying to get rid of inventory.

 Please   send Ken Smith a E-mail to:

 dollpalace@hotmail.com

 Since August 1984

NEW UPDATE AS OF 11-12-2011

MY WIFE, ESTHER L. SMITH HAS

PASSED AWAY ON 11-02-2011

and with her passing I have closed

the Doll Palace General Hospital and

ARE NO LONGER DOING ANY DOLL

SHOWS AND NOT DOING ANY DOLL REPAIRS.

I WILL BE MOVING INTO A SENIOR APPARTMENT where I will NOT be able to do DOLL REPAIRS:

MY WIFE OF 30 years is REALLY GOING TO BE MISSED BY US ALL:

She suffered from her cancer for one year, and IS SUFFERING NO MORE AS SHE IS WITH OUR LORD IN HEAVEN.

WE HAVE BROUGHT MUCH HAPPINESS TO MANY PEOPLE OVER THE YEARS ALL OVER THE COUNTRY AND WILL BE MISSED VERY MUCH BY US ALL!!

WE HAVE SEEN SOME VERY GOOD YEARS AND HAVE SEEN THE DOLL

INDUSTRY DROP TO WHERE NOTHING WAS SELLING.

I PLACED ONE OF OUR SMALL

BABY NEW BORNS DRESSED IN A FANCY FRILLY OUTFIT WRAPPED IN A BEAUTIFUL BLANKET IN THE CASKET WITH HER ALONG WITH ROSES FROM HER ROSE GARDEN THAT SHE ALWAYS WANTED, SO I PLACED HER FAVORITE TWO COLORS IN WITH HER.

SHE WAS LAID TO REST 11-06-2011

IN THE ROSE GARDEN SECTION OF

FLORAL HILLS CEMATARY.

I WANT TO THANK EVERYONE THAT HAS SUPPORTED US ALL THESE YEARS IN EVER WAY,

THANKS FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY HEART!!

MY E-MAIL WILL REMAIN THE SAME: dollpalace@hotmail.com

Kenneth S. Smith Jr.