By Jennifer Kohn Murtha
It’s funny how things turn out, isn’t it? I mean, I expected to have a BJD convention on the east coast, but instead, ended up losing the convention and gaining a dear friend. Not such a bad trade, I think most of us would say.
It all started in 2010 at the wonderful BJD convention in Austin, Texas. I had such a good time at the convention that when I got home, I co-opted Michele Hardy as my co-chair (she was a saint!) and started planning the All BJDs Welcome Here Convention for 2011. Spread the word, far and wide, here and there, with many dealers wanting to show in our sales room. Suffice it to say that we were well-nigh full, with the luminaries of the BJD world beating down our door for space. It was a heady feeling.
We let everyone know that we were filled, but still were getting requests for space in the sales room, which Michele and I most regretfully had to turn down. That was it, we figured and went on to meal events, etc, but fate intervened, in the guise of Russet Hodges ( a collector of dolls of all kinds including BJDS and a customer of…well, we’re getting ahead of ourselves here)-and let it be said that one must never underestimate the power of a red-headed woman.
Russet emailed me, telling me that Iris Ehrman, proprietor of Fabric Friends and Dolls in Laytonsville Maryland, wanted a table or two in the convention sales room. I knew that Iris had only two types of BJDs, both made by people who were already represented at our convention, so I told her no, when I saw her at the storied Gaithersburg doll show in Gaithersburg Maryland. We were full up, said I, but of course, if you can get Dollmore for our convention, we’ll be glad to give you a table or six! (Ha Ha was implicit in my tone.)
I didn’t know Iris at the time at all. She’s a small, attractive woman with fabulous blonde hair, pretty face, slim figure-and a will of iron. Iris may be rather quiet, and a bit shy, but she’s as tenacious as anyone in business I have known. When she wants something and doesn’t take no for an answer, ever.
I didn’t think anymore about it until I saw Iris again, about a month later. Smiling triumphantly, she told me that she now had the Dollmore account. I almost dropped dead on the spot from shock, as who would have thunk it possible?! I didn’t, as I have said, know Iris at all at the time.
When I had told her that she could have a table if she was able to secure Dollmore as an account, she got right on her computer, and contacted Dollmore to ask for the account. Several weeks later, all things had been straightened out and Dollmore was convinced that Iris was a real brick and mortar store. They sent their first order-and our convention collapsed.
Michele and I were so disappointed, as were others. It just wasn’t meant to be.
However, here’s Iris with a large order of Dollmore dolls, including several Lusion Dahlias, and no convention at which to sell her BJDs. What would any resourceful person do? Iris gathered her wits about her, packed up every single Dollmore doll and went to the next Gaithersburg show, armed to the teeth with this fine BJD company’s dolls. Now, mind you, she wasn’t a total novice in the BJD world, for she had Berdine Creedy’s lovely dolls and Paulette Goodreau’s too, but this was the first time that she had dolls from another country. The language barrier aside, Dollmore was all business and understood the American business model completely. Iris, who heretofore had fashion dolls only, including Madame Alexander, Mattel, Robert Tonner, Integrity Toys and Momoko in her shop, among others, was now in the BJD business.
To start out with Dollmore is no mean feat, but she quickly added to her store’s luster, adding Raurencio Studios and Dream High Studios to her group of US exclusives.
She also added, in no particular order, Blue Fairy, Leekeworld, Bo Bergmann Dolls, Ruby Red Galleria, Obitsu, Nikki Britt Studios, Ashton Drake’s Delilah Noir, MuDoll, Angel of Dream, Impldoll, 5-Star Doll, Connie Lowe’s Marbled Halls and Michele Hardy clothes, wigs and face-ups, plus Dollheart’s clothes and shoes too. A dizzying number of accounts in less that two years, but that’s Iris-an all or nothing kinda gal. PS….wonderful Luts has now joined Fabric Friends and Dolls’ stellar lineup of BJD makers, as of May ?.
Her store, Fabric Friends and Dolls, is in Laytonsville Maryland, a beautiful small town very near the equally beautiful and old Olney – a bike rider’s paradise, and for those of us who love dolls, ditto. She’s been in business for twenty years, having started out as a crafter making cloth dolls and bears, doing craft shows near and far. The Beanie Baby craze was good to Iris, who was able to take the profits from selling them and invest in higher-end dolls, for her dream shop. As she was a doll lover from birth, she always had dolls in her craft business, so it was easy to morph over the name, add “and Dolls” to it and open up as Fabric Friends and Dolls.
Iris is someone who is never too busy to talk…and if she is and she has to call you back, she does it ASAP. Her motto is the best in customer service and at that, she’s a dab hand – just the best. Nothing is ever too much trouble for her, which her customers, pretty much all of whom become friends, really appreciate. For any doll collector, let alone BJD lovers, it’s nice to have someone who understands our passion and can give us a fix, five days a week and six, if there is a BJD Trunk Show on a Sunday, as there has been twice now, with another one scheduled for June 24th, 2012.
Trunk shows were originally used by high-end clothing designers to showcase their works in different parts of the country or the world, for women who mightn’t get to New York or Paris more than once every two years. A big hit with many over time and fun too. I thought that as many of the BJD companies were in Asia, Iris might try a trunk show for dolls to bring BJDs to her customers who didn’t get to Asia more than once every two years ^_^. So, she sent out invitations via fliers at shows, the internet via Den of Angels, BJDcollectasy and Zone of Zen, in my Yahoo group for BJDs and through our UFDC clubs too . Lo and behold, a whole horde of people showed up on a Sunday in February to meet and greet. Iris had provided us with delicious pizza from the restaurant down the mall from her, and some of us made desserts for everyone’s delectation which were equally yummy, so between the wonderful dolls and the wonderful food, a good time was had by all. Iris doesn’t mind if people open up boxes, so some bought dolls and dressed them, while others brought in a cherished BJD and dressed him or her at Iris’s and then bought them a little something besides…one’s dolls can never be too well-dressed to suit them. Iris also offers custom clothes for people whose dolls are hard to fit or want something unusual…or for dolls that just must be spoiled…
So, don’t be shy-the Trunk Show on June 24th will start at noon and end at four pm, with dolls from every company that I mentioned being available, but if you can’t make it, not to worry. Iris has a wonderful website where you shop until you drop, she ships all over the world and is getting in more BJDs every few weeks. She jokes that she’s aiming to carry every BJD in the entire world, eventually, so much has she come to love and admire these dolls, who have been, it must be admitted, good to her too… with many companies wanting to be represented by her now .
Come on down! After all, have you got to lose, but a little cash? You have everything to gain – look what happened to me. I lost a BJD convention, but gained a friend. I still think I did pretty well out of that transaction, don’t you think?
Photos Above: Entrance to Fabric Friends and Dolls, photo of visitors to the spring Trunk Show at the store.
Fabric Friends and Dolls ~ webstore
Fabric Friends & Dolls
6836 Olney Laytonsville Road
Gaithersburg, MD 20882
Store Hours (to call):
SUN, MON – CLOSED
TUES – FRI: 12:00 PM – 5:00 PM EST
SAT – 11:00 AM – 5:00 PM EST