On the Upper West Side of Manhattan, across the widest part of Broadway, inside an old brick factory building, it’s as if time stopped. Here your little girl and her friends (and you!) can delight in an experience that will widen eyes, enchant, and broaden horizons.
The Madame Alexander Doll Company is open to children of all ages! (See the front page for a story on creator Madame Beatrice Alexander).
I can’t recommend this tour highly enough. Latasha (Tasha) Sidibay, Assistant Manager/Client Relations is a lovely woman and a perfectly marvelous guide! She has answers to simply everything, remembers dates, and peppers her history with anecdotes. Like a full grown fairy godmother, she enhances the magic, relating warmly to the process, the toys, and her charges (your children) alike. (Tasha has a son.) The two little girls who accompanied me had a wonderful time. As did I.
First stop is a Showroom housing the broadest variety of current Alexander dolls you can view anywhere—every size, shape, historical period, and nationality. My nine-year-old guests ran from shelf to shelf calling out names of recognized characters. From Angelina Ballerina and Fancy Nancy to Christopher Robin and friends, from high fashion to baby dolls.
The Design Atelier used to be Madame’s office. There’s an entire wall choc-a-block with books, stacks of fashion and reference magazines, rolls and piles of folded fabric, body parts, clothing patterns, small accessories…Interestingly, what you don’t see is computers. I’m told they’re available, but not always used. If you’re lucky a few of the creators will be there working.
The Doll Hospital accepts patients not born at Madame Alexander. Skilled hands can refurbish almost any part of a doll. We were shown how arms and legs reattach and the way hair is curled. Greta, a mainstay, runs a tight division. With the longest tenure at the company (fifty-six years,) she knew Madame herself. “I’ve been here as long as dirt,” she laughs.
The Sewing Area is where prototypes and limited editions are made. Six or seven expert seamstresses have been working here for an average of over twenty years. Most of the machines are very old. The ladies prefer them. Dolls wait on cutting tables with clothing pinned together so pieces can come off one by one to be duplicated. We’re introduced to Wendy, named for Madame’s grand daughter, and Maggie, her best friend. All the dolls have a relationship to one another-sisters, friends, cousins. Faces are used repeatedly. “Think of Wendy as an actress,” Tasha tells my charges, “she plays many different characters in different wigs and clothes.” Two heads nodded with complete understanding.
A short video about Madame Alexander and the company follow this. Then, on to:
The Heritage Gallery—over six hundred dolls from every era, a great proportion of which are on loan from serious collectors. There’s one of five Plaza Hotel Doll Houses in existence, created for Eloise, of course; a one-of-a-kind Romeo and Juliet that sold at auction for $8,000 in 1994; and even a Psycho doll, naturally standing in a shower.
You can end your tour here or visit the company store. Dolls from last year and before may be purchased below wholesale. Current dolls may be ordered.
The store is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week and needn’t be visited only in conjunction with a tour.
A full package can be booked seven days a week. Three weeks advance notice, please.
The most popular program includes:
Invitations for your guests sent to you by Madame Alexander.
The unique opportunity for a private tour of the factory, including the showroom, designers’ atelier, doll hospital, sewing area, historical video, and The Madame Alexander Heritage Gallery.
Pizza and beverages in the decorated party room for everyone attending. (You can bring anything to add to this. Most people supply their own cake. The company will supply one for additional charge.) This can also be a tea party: finger sandwiches, pastry, tea and coffee.
The create-a-doll workshop: each attendee chooses from a 9″ Caucasian with blue eyes, an African American with brown eyes, or a Latina with gray eyes; hair color and style (your handy helpers glue the wigs on-the-spot;) an outfit from a wall hung with garments and accessories. The dolls are placed in signature window boxes with handles and given to your giggling gaggle to take home.
An alternative is the decorate hats and shoes workshop.
A visit to the company store where dolls of last year and before can be purchased below wholesale. (The current line can be ordered)
Gift bags: generally these hold a pin, an ornament, a small stuffed animal, a hat, and accessories for the doll just built.
$68 per person unless otherwise customized. Party minimum $300.
Accommodating up to 22 children.
It should be noted that the last event prior to our visit was the birthday party of a fifty year old woman. Champagne and cake were brought in. The ladies enjoyed the entire program including a create-a-doll workshop. The birthday girl was at some point heard to suggest a group of her gay friends might have a blast.
If you choose to eat somewhere other than Madame Alexander’s, you can come for a tour and the workshop at $38 a person. No party minimum.
The tour only is priced at $8 adult, $5 senior citizens, $4 children. No minimum.
Open to the public by appointment Monday, Wednesday, and Friday 11 a.m. or 4 p.m. and alternating Saturdays.
To schedule a visit call: 212-283-5900
The Madame Alexander Doll Company 615 West 131 St. 6th Floor 212-283-5900