Monday, October 20, 2008


The front of "dollsandreams" was painted a bright grass green color. It was a typical New York shop -- about 25 feet wide and quite deep. In 1970, Third Avenue was being revitalized with office buildings and apartments rising up from the street that once boasted the "Third Avenue El" -- an elevated railroad system that ran the length of the city. As a kid I loved to ride the El as it rattled past the tenement buildings where you could see into the second floor windows of shops and apartments. I often wondered about all the different people who sat in their windows or on the fire-escapes that clung to the building facades like giant spiders.
In the 1950s they dismantled the El and Third Avenue became more respectable, but not any less interesting. Dozens of tiny antique shops ran the length from East 34th Street well up into the East 70s. It had character and charm plus three Italian restaurants that all claimed to be THE "Original Joe's."
The Murray Hill section was mostly middle-class and there were lots and lots of young families living there where the apartments were bigger and the rents were lower than on Park Avenue or Sutton Place. So it was the perfect location for a toy shop like "dollsandreams" as well as the cobbler shop next to it.
The green facade was divided by two tall windows on either side of the front door. The windows were not very wide or deep but they were large enough to display a number of Sasha dolls at play.
After months of being a regular customer, I offered to create a special Sasha display for the shop. It was the first of many that followed. My father had created the first mechanical Christmas windows for Macy's back in the early 1930s so I guess it came naturally to me.
My first window consisted of a group of Sashas all dressed in outfits made of a farmer's red hankie pattern fabric. They were the first outfits I ever created for Sasha. There was a picnic table loaded with miniature food that Yvonne and Bruno had brought back from Europe. That window was a big hit with all the children and I was delighted every night when I walked home past the shop and discovered children with their noses pressed against the glass trying to be a part of the Sasha experience on Sasha Street.