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American ingenuity creates doll rooms sized for American Girl dolls

LAKEVILLE — At a recent meeting to discuss Salisbury’s Plan of Conservation and Development, Sally Spillane and others made the point that there are entrepreneurs in town conducting business in ways that are not immediately apparent to the casual observer.One such business has been quietly growing in the center of Lakeville — in the space formerly occupied by The Lakeville Journal Co.’s four-bay printing press.The initial idea behind Rory O’Connor’s American Doll Rooms came about in 2009. O’Connor’s daughters asked him to build a dollhouse large enough to accommodate the popular American Girl line of dolls — at 18 inches or so, considerably taller than the iconic Barbie doll.After some research, O’Connor found that parents were constructing dollhouses for their children’s collections — large, nonportable, expensive, time-consuming custom dollhouses.O’Connor sensed a need for something portable, easily stored and inexpensive — and hit on the concept of a room for the dolls, not a whole house.He built several prototypes and continued to fiddle with the idea.Now American Doll Room is in business, with the first batch of orders packed and ready to ship from the rear of The Lakeville Journal building.O’Connor watched proudly last Saturday as daughter Molly, age 10, set about arranging an American Doll Room.The concept is simple — two 24-inch-square walls made of stiff cardboard with an interior and exterior scene, plus a square of carpet and easily attached curtains. Families provide the dolls, furniture and accessories.O’Connor explained how children can play with the dolls “inside,”or move “outside” to use the exterior side (which looks like the outside of a house). From inside, a look out the window reveals trees.Get two rooms and put them next to each other, and the play area expands.And the real selling point for parents: the whole kit and caboodle folds down flat and fits in the handy storage and carrying bags.O’Connor said in 2009 his daughters were playing with the big dolls and he was at a moment in his life where he was at loose ends. “My activities had become minimal.”As he developed the concept, he played around with different prototypes — a stable, a cabin, a schoolhouse.“I realized we could do an endless variety.”The makers of the American Girl doll didn’t offer much, aside from a bulky and expensive treehouse. “And once that was set up it was staying there,” O’Connor said.O’Connor said he was taken aback at the size and cost of dollhouses. “A four-room dollhouse cost $1,200 to $1,500. They were all so massive and expensive, and you couldn’t bring them anywhere. It takes an adult to put them together.”It’s truly a family business — O’Connor has his children involved. Molly works on design, Emily on social media (the American Doll Room Facebook page has almost 3,000 fans) and sons Rory Patrick and Sean run the warehouse and shipping. (The boys also get in a little skateboard practice in the large empty space.)The rooms start at $89 (plus $9 shipping), which includes curtains, carpet and a carrying bag. There are several color options for the rooms and the carpet.The O’Connor team was excited on Saturday afternoon, with the first 50 orders packed and ready to go and more orders coming in from all over the country.In the comments section of the printed-out order form from the website, a woman in North Carolina wrote that she was looking forward to watching her daughter play with the room.Molly, the designer, set up a demonstration room — light blue with a white carpet. She produced a doll and some furniture, spent a few moments getting it just right, and voila. Total elapsed time — three minutes. (Of course, she’s had some practice.)For more information see www.americandollroom.com.

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