When she was young and her sister would assume custody of the doll they shared and its accessories, Lily Bergh resolved to have a full doll supply of her own someday.
For over three decades now, Bergh has owned and operated her own doll place, Little Switzerland Toys + Dolls – today 70 percent toys and 30 percent dolls, by her estimation – in Huntington village.
“Be careful what you wish,” said Bergh, noting that she did not expect her childhood dream to become a reality.
Past the glass double doors with weighty silver door pulls is a refuge for board games and tea sets and plastic guns. On the floor near the counter is a wooden box shrouded in the red yarn hair of Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy dolls. Steps away, a glass case holds porcelain dolls and baby dolls and nesting dolls.
In 1981, Bergh opened the store on New York Avenue – a location she noticed while passing by one day. She has since moved to her spot on Main Street.
In current advertisements, the store boasts the slogan: “Your village toy store, making our kids smile for three generations.”
She began with dolls and teddy bears, transitioning to dolls and toys as the market changed, she said.
The store sells a service, Bergh said; after helping customers to choose gifts, she wraps them and also offers delivery service. Sometimes, she said, customers will call, give her a price, and have her pick out gifts for them and ship them out.
“I have not gotten one back in 30 years,” she said of her success rate in choosing appropriate gifts.
The store’s history is embodied by her customers. Grown women come in and tell her that their mothers bought them their first dolls at the store, she said; recently, a woman in her early 20s told her that she remembered entering the store with quarters and dimes and nickels and leaving with little porcelain dolls.
“She would count it and I would say, ‘OK,’ so if she was sometimes short 50 cents… [I would say, ‘Don’t worry about it.’],” Bergh said.
Two years ago, Bergh got recognized on a plane ride to California, en route to visit her son. A girl told her mother, ‘There’s the doll lady,’ Bergh remembers.
That “doll lady” was born in eastern Europe to a Hungarian mother and Czech father. She came to America decades ago and has been living in Huntington about 30 years with her husband, a Massapequa native.
When she was a child, Bergh would sew dresses and underwear for her dolls from fabric scraps that her mother, a seamstress, gave her. Bergh has her own daughter now, Robin, who began helping her at the store two months ago. Her son produces films in California.
Bergh’s store is paradoxically old-fashioned and full of color. Crossing the threshold from sidewalk to carpet is to travel from black-and-white film to the realm of color. Bergh likes to watch as children smile upon entering, she said; she smiles, too.
Little Switzerland Toys + Dolls
267 Main St., Huntington