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Monday, January 28, 2013

ARTICLE - CHILI DOLL "DOCTOR" TO SOON CLOSE SHOP

Chili doll 'doctor' to soon close shop

Jan 28, 2013   
Written by Alan Morrell
For decades, Linda Greenfield has been preserving childhood memories and valuable keepsakes as the doll doctor of Chili.
But the doctor’s office is closing soon. Greenfield, who has run the Victorian Doll Museum & Chili Doll Hospital on Buffalo Road for 43 years, has decided that this will be her last year in business.
Doll collecting isn’t as popular as it once was, Greenfield said, and her craft is becoming outdated. She’s also looking to spend more time with the grandkids.
“I’m kind of like Kodak,” said Greenfield, 61, who closed the museum last year and sold many of the roughly 3,000 dolls she owned. “I could be here another 10 years, but I’m realistic. The importance that dolls once held in people’s lives has taken a back seat to technology today. Time brings change. I’m ready for change in my life.”
 
 
 
 Maybe she is, but some collectors are mourning the news. Kathy Case of Spencerport, a longtime friend and collector, called Greenfield’s work “impeccable.”“It’s a lost art,” Case said. “She’s restoring family heirlooms. You wonder, down the road, who will take care of things like this. Linda belongs in the Smithsonian herself.”
Greenfield works with modern doll series like American Girl, but many of the dolls she mends are antiques with porcelain heads and hands. And with age comes wear, particularly at the hands of enthusiastic children. Greenfield has replaced plenty of poked-out eyes and worn-out wigs since she started the business as a 15-year-old, originally working out of her parents’ home.
Greenfield started collecting when she was 8. Her maternal grandfather was an antiques dealer, and he often surprised her with dolls he had come across. One of her earliest prizes was a Bye-Lo Baby doll, one of the first realistic baby dolls ever constructed. The dolls were made in the 1920s with a bisque head and glass eyes that open and close.
Greenfield also played with Barbies as a child. It wasn’t long before she transitioned from playing with dolls to becoming immersed in the hobby of collecting. She went to antique shops and hobby shows with her mother. Frequently, they saw dolls that needed fixing, and that’s when Greenfield got the idea of becoming a “doll doctor.”
 
 “I always took art classes and ceramic classes,” said Greenfield, a lifelong resident of Chili. I’d already started trying to make my own dolls. In high school, I decided to have my own business.”She took a mail-order class in doll repair and opened up shop at home. Looking for a space with “room to grow for years and years,” Greenfield moved the business to its current location — 4332 Buffalo Road — in 1970. The building once housed a general store, as well as a grocery, dry cleaner, print shop and barber shop, Greenfield said. Eventually, upstairs apartments became available, and Greenfield and her parents moved in.
“Dad helped me with the soldering gun, and showed me how to hook up an air compressor,” she said. “Mom helped me with the artistic side.”
Her mother, Elizabeth, greeted customers as the place’s hostess for years. She died last year.
“A lot of people called her Aunt Betty,” Greenfield said, before pausing to choke back a tear. They went to many a mother-daughter banquet over the years, she explained.
Greenfield calls herself a caretaker as much as a “doctor,” and it’s apparent by the sensitivity she dedicates to her craft. While displaying one antique doll, she tenderly cradles it in the crook of her elbow as if holding a genuine newborn. She shares a story about a woman who gave her a cherished doll because the woman had severe arthritis and worried she would drop it.
Greenfield’s collection has shrunk to about 200 dolls. They’re not all the most cash-valuable ones.
“It’s not just the doll, but the person that owned it that I’m remembering,” she said. “I’ve gotten many letters from satisfied clients, including one from a woman who had a 40-year-old doll ‘reborn.’ That’s been my function — not only doing the work, but bringing back a little piece of yesterday.”
Greenfield has doctored dolls for museums as well as individuals. She once worked as a contractor for the old Strong Museum, when it was known as the “Museum of Fascination” and operated at the Allen’s Creek Road residence of Margaret Woodbury Strong in Pittsford. She once met the eccentric and wealthy Strong, a noted doll collector who called young Linda her “little competition.”
 
 “I said, ‘Not really, you get all the good stuff,’ ” Greenfield remembered.Greenfield’s “hospital” and museum have been featured in national publications such as The Saturday Evening Post and Reader’s Digest. As a youngster, she was interviewed by Rochester broadcast legend Eddie Meath and appeared on the long-ago Miss Rita’s Romper Room TV show. Her place has been featured on AAA’s TripTiks and visited by tour buses.
And soon, it will be no more. The place has been closed since just after Christmas time, but will reopen in mid-March. There’s still inventory to clear out. Greenfield said she will be doing more limited work this year, and she has not set a definite closing date.
“She’s given it her life,” said Case, the longtime friend. “I don’t know if people are passing on their heirlooms, but she kept it going with people who cherished that. I don’t think kids are having dolls at a young age so much. They’re all forced to grow up so quickly. But us big kids like having our dolls around.”
 

Get to know Linda Greenfield

• Greenfield’s doll collections includes the Dionne quintuplets, “nurse dolls” that have been donated to the Rochester Medical Museum & Archives, and Japanese dolls that came from a family visiting from Tokyo.
• Greenfield has done work on dolls from all over the United States as well as Canada.
• Greenfield attaches a “hospital wrist tag” with the name of her business to dolls that have been doctored.
• Her for-sale inventory includes Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy dolls, porcelain collector dolls, Russian nesting dolls and lace and doll clothing.
• Her daughter, Christina, and husband, Bob, have helped out at the shop for years

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