Fort Mill Times

Dolls at heart of Lake Wylie woman’s life

Easter is among Suzanne Krause’s favorite holidays. She gets to dress her dolls in bonnets, pearls and other finery. It recalls her childhood, when Easter outfits were thoroughly considered, fitted and modeled.

She keeps those memories and traditions alive with creations at The Doll House, her store at Love’s Plaza in Rock Hill, where she also provides doll appraisals and arranges for their repairs.

In a wonderland room in her River Hills home live hundreds of her personal dolls dating from 1900 to the present.

“Every one of them has a story,” she said of her doll, tea set and dollhouse collections. “I’m kind of old timey. Not what I’m selling, necessarily, but the ideas are old timey.”

She displays her Madame Alexanders, the Snow Whites and dwarfs and the Mary Hoyers.

“I became obsessed with Mary Hoyer,” Krause said. She admires the entrepreneur who was able to create and grow her doll clothing line into a major success.

She has doll furniture and houses, including a large, fully furnished house from famed toy store FAO Schwarz in New York City.

Krause has always loved dolls, and her family approved.

“I had a very strict mother,” she recalls of her upbringing in Philadelphia. “I figured out if I went to the ‘world of pretend’ and played with my dolls and didn’t get into trouble, I’d have an easy life.”

She and her younger sister, Jane, loved to roller skate and play with their dolls.

“We were best friends,” Krause said of her late sister. “We had a magical time together.”

She points to her first doll, a wood composition baby doll named Dorothy, a gift from her grandmother.

“She always wanted me to have been named Dorothy, but my doll got the name,” Krause said.

Krause began collecting in earnest in her 20s, teaching herself about manufacturers, doll composition, fabrics and fashion. She and an associated learned how to appraise them and where to get hard-to-find dolls and accessories.

“If there’s anything about dolls, we’re the ones who know about it,” she said.

Like her hero Mary Hoyer, Krause became an entrepreneur following her career in broadcasting in Philadelphia. After she and her husband of 52 years Buzz, moved to River Hills in 1986, she opened her first doll store in Fort Mill.

She eventually brought the business home, before deciding to open The Doll House in Rock Hill’s Painted Pony Boutique in Love’s Plaza.

Krause appraises dolls and related items for customers. Some can be valuable, she said, but most aren’t the investments owners might expect.

“People think porcelain dolls are valuable just because they’re porcelain, but that’s not necessarily true.”

For example, in the mid ’80s some manufacturers began to market dolls as collectibles and investments, with price tags that required installment payments.

“Unfortunately those were mostly made overseas and flooded the market,” Krause said.

But a dolls value goes beyond what it’s worth because they provide joy.

She calls the 1940s and ’50s the golden age of dolls, because they were made in the United States, often by women-run companies.

“They took a lot of pride in their work then, and that quality holds up,” she said.

Krause said The Doll House’s most popular sellers are the 18-inch American Girl-style dolls.

“I tend to dress them like I did,” which include hats and bows and matching accessories, she said.

She sells doll beds, dollhouses and doll clothing, with every outfit coming complete with accessories. And every doll bed or pillow she sells comes with a tiny Bible and doll-sized cross pendant, as “a little something extra special.”

Krause likes to see it as she sells love and imagination. She wants her customers to enjoy their dolls, not pack them away somewhere.

“Boxes don’t mean anything,” she said. “I want dolls to be played with and loved.”