Doodlet’s set to reopen (November 19, 2007)

After a 20-month closure, Doodlet’s is expected to open the day after Thanksgiving, just in time for holiday shopping.

“I’m excited and scared about reopening,” said Doodlet’s owner Theo Raven, who visited the store Friday afternoon as some of the store’s furnishings were brought out of storage.

Doodlet’s, which sells everything from children’s books to antiques and gifts to bubble gum, first opened in 1955 and has been a downtown fixture ever since.

Raven, 76, stored some of the shop’s inventory at her home, and she also went to a wholesale market to order new items.

“It’s starting to come in now,” she said. “I’m just loony about children’s books, and we’ll have toys galore and some wonderful folk art.”

As Raven waited in the empty store, friends and passersby stuck their heads in the door to compliment her on the remodel, which included replacement of old carpeting with a wood floor and the removal of a staircase from the middle of the sales floor.

“I love how it turned out,” Raven said. “And the outside of the building is really wonderful.”

Raven said most of her former employees are returning to the store, including manager Adele Rosen and sales staffers Lorinda Sandaman, Jone Hallmark and Georgia Meza.

Raven closed the store, at 120 Don Gaspar, on March 13, 2006, for the remodel.

Raven also had three two-story condominiums built on the upper floors of the building. Those units are 2,660, 1,630 and 1,910 square feet in size.

“I turned them over to Sotheby’s (International Realty) to sell,” Raven said. “I decided I didn’t want to be a landlady.”

Raven said she didn’t know what the prices of the condos will be.

For months, businesses along Water Street have complained about the scaffolding that wrapped Doodlet’s until earlier this week. They said it kept people away and hurt their businesses.

“Thank God it’s gone,” said Sharla McDowell, owner with her husband, Mike, of POP Santa Fe Gallery. “I can’t tell you how happy we are. It makes a huge difference. We’ve seen an increase in traffic already.”

“I’m very relieved,” said Joshua Steinlauf owner of Azul, a multimedia gallery. “We caused a ruckus with the city because that project was so overdue. I know, when we have people in town, traffic will pick up again.”

Another happy store owner is Eva Jackson, owner of The Sign of the Pampered Maiden, which has a temporary store in La Fonda.

Jackson is a tenant in Raven’s building and will be moving back in January.

“We’ve been there almost 40 years,” she said.

The Doodlet’s building took a long time to remodel because of its age — it was built around 1870 and was at one time the National Hotel.

The project started without a building permit because, at first, a good deal of “exploratory demolition” was necessary to determine what kind of shape the building was in, said Bob Lockwood of Lockwood Construction, the company that did the work, in a previous interview.

Part of the remodel included bringing in steel shoring from Houston to support the building while rotted material was removed.

“We had to bring steel in through the window and then erect it from within,” Lockwood said. “It was real challenge. It was like building a ship in a bottle.”

Source: Bob Quick, Santa Fe New Mexican (