Sharon Wilkerson focuses on American Girl Dolls as it’s one of the few types of dolls that holds its value but is also something children can actually play with. (Photo by Sean Clougherty)

Sharon Wilkerson has seen it so many times she’s lost count.
Parents buy an American Girl doll for their young toddler daughter, and in a few years, when the child is at an age to better enjoy the toy, it’s unappealing or too damaged to play with.
“Most of them, the hair is in pretty bad shape,” Wilkerson said, walking around her small store, Doll Boutique and More, tucked behind her family’s pool supply store in Stevensville.
A doll collector most of her life, Wilkerson said she hated to see the dolls in such poor shape.
Being around dolls for so long, and with lots of experience with American Girl dolls, she got to be pretty adept at repairs and giving the toys a fresh look.
After she opened Doll Boutique and More a few years ago, she started offering repairs as a service.
“I decided I was good enough at it and I could do it quickly and get it done,” she said.
After lots of childhood play, she said the dolls’ limbs tend to get loose and need tightened, so “restringing” the doll is a common repair.
She’ll replace eyes, too, but for most of the dolls that come to her for repair, new hair is at the top of the list.
“They just destroy them when it comes to the hair,” she said.
But in a lot cases, that hard use created a lot of love and many dolls come to Sharon for a new life to be passed down to a daughter or granddaughter.
In replacing the hair, Wilkerson uses heat treatable hair that can handle the heat of a curling iron or hair dryer which may drop the doll’s value for a die-hard collector, but adds to its usefulness for a new young owner.
Recently, a mother from North Carolina sent Wilkerson two dolls to be repaired.
“They were actually her dolls and she was giving them to her kids,” Wilkerson recalled.
And Wilkerson can relate.
When her first great-granddaughter was born 17 years ago, she started buying American Girl dolls for her and it continued when another grandchild was born three years later.
To go with the dolls, she made clothes, furniture and other accessories for the young girls to play with.
“So it just kind of escalated,” she said.
Wilkerson said she has about 60 American Girl dolls in her collection and though it’s hard to see them go, she knows it’s a good thing for them to go on to another home.
“If I had my way, I would just keep collecting and not get rid of any of it but I can’t afford that for one,” she said. “There is a market for those right now and kids can play with them. They’re not like porcelain dolls that you just set up and look at.”
That’s where the store comes in.
Wilkerson has not only dolls on display and for sale but complete outfit sets, clothes crocheted by her sister and original accessories including a Volkswagen Beetle with working lights and radio.
“To find something that actually works can be tough,” she said.
Though it stays clean and crisp, Wilkerson admits there’s not a lot of traffic to the tiny store. She said that most of her sales are online through eBay or Facebook, or through a series of craft shows she visits.
Though she’s focused on American Girl dolls, Wilkerson has amassed a large collection of all types of dolls — including about 300 porcelain dolls — and spread into other types of dolls once she had children.
“I came from a very poor family,” she said. “I only had one doll. When my daughters came along, I said, ‘I’m going to get her all the dolls she wants.’”
Now she jokes that doll collecting is a “sickness” for her but not unlike the many other hobbies people have from model trains to coins.
“My kids think I’ve just totally lost it but I don’t care, It makes me happy,” she said.