George Georgiou strolls past aisles of beads and jewellery towards a small room filled with vintage dolls hanging from the roof and a 30-year collection of children’s toys.
Owner of the 50-year old Doll and Teddy Hospital and Bead Trimming and Craft in South Brisbane, George Georgiou is one of Australia’s most passionate and successful doll and teddy doctors. When he first bought the business in 1971, he had already owned his bead store for two years. He travelled across Queensland selling his beads, but says that when he returned on Thursdays and Fridays he had nothing to do. “I bought the hospital as a joke for something to do.” George was quick to develop a passion for his new role and spent three years full-time learning the tricks of the trade.
After moving his two stores from West End to the city five years ago, George has continued to develop a strong clientele across the globe. “Everybody comes in. Young, old, male and female,” he says. As George explains how most of his business comes from word of mouth, he reminisces on a trip to Hong Kong. “A lady came up to me and said, ‘You’re from the doll hospital, aren’t you?’ Well that day made me feel 20-feet tall,” says George proudly. He has a strong understanding that every article to arrive in his store has strong sentimental value. “It has got their memories, their childhood, and that’s what they want repaired,” he says. During his career George has repaired dolls for children, adults and even the deceased. Some of his clients include the family of people who have passed away with the intention of leaving the item in their coffin. One was a young lady whose childhood teddy bear had been slashed by her previous boyfriend.
George explains the hardest part of his job is when children come with their parents to leave their broken dolls. He encourages parents to only bring their child when collecting their doll or teddy. “It doesn’t matter how clever the child is or what you say to the child before hand, it doesn’t work,” he says. Often when parents bring in their children he has to tell them to take the article back, because their child is not going to stop crying. “I’ve sent people back to Kingaroy. I’ve sent people back to Toowoomba,” he says. George explains he sees the jaw drop on children within just a few meters of his store entrance, so he encourages customers who need to bring their children to take their toy back and post it to him.
Over the years George has had assistants come in to help, but they have never just been people who have applied for a job. His helpers have always been people whom he handpicks because he believes workers in his industry need his kind of passion. “You have to have your mind on the job because everything you touch is 50 to 80 years old. You can’t afford to mess up,” he explains.
Words by Kayla Millhouse | Images by Stayc Connolly