As Barbie Movie Debuts, Oceanside Woman Focuses On Doll Play Studio

ROCKVILLE CENTRE, NY — As millions anticipate Barbie coming alive in the new movie starring Margot Robbie, one Rockville Centre woman is catering to children with her business.

Little Doll Studio uses figurines to empower girls and build their confidence. Despite young girls being the majority of guests, owner Frances Cuomo Perparo said dolls are definitely unisex toys. She has the entire Marvel Collection, Harry Potter figurines and more geared for boys’ parties.

“Once they start playing, a doll becomes a rocket,” she laughed.

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Even with helping some youngsters get out of their shells, they are still children first.

A girl got Perparo’s attention making squeamish sounds as she played with the Ken doll from the Barbie movie.

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“I thought that was so funny. ‘Ewww, it’s a boy.’ It’s so cute.”

Perpero’s idea came to fruition with its opening in August 2022. But as you’d expect, this is a long time coming.

“I had always played with dolls as a child. My daughter always played with dolls as a child,” she said. “I just loved that there was this sort of freedom to use your imagination.”

At age 5, Perpero recalls her parents throwing a Barbie runway party for her. Her friends were asked to bring their Barbie and her favorite outfit.

“Out of contact paper and cardboard, my parents made a doll runway,” she said. “It was the cutest thing ever.”

Years later, her daughter enjoyed her own doll runway party.

It led to Perpero thinking about how to take the one-off party idea into a sustainable business model.

Not sure about the interest, Perpero started incorporating her doll crafts at Girl Scout workshops. It was essentially a mobile version of her stationery project.

After a few months of taking the doll runway on the road, Perpero knew the easiest option, if not the costliest, would be going brick and mortar.

As the iconic doll hits theaters, Perparo, of course, recalls her Barbie.

“My sister and I had a few,” she said. “We loved playing with Barbie.”

Lined up with the movie, Little Doll Studio has special craft workshops each week throughout the summer, including candy kabobs and doll makeup.

She said doll play at an early age encourages imagination and creativity in an unstructured way. Plus, research indicated there are developmental benefits, which she saw firsthand.

“My son had some speech delays when he was younger,” she said. “I found that [with] doll play he was able to increase his conversation.”

That was an important aspect of launching her Rockville Centre studio.

“In a digital, on-demand age, my concern was is doll play going to disappear?”

Perparo said most of her guests are in the 3-9-year-old range, and she caters to girls and boys of varying abilities.

With all eyes on Barbie, debuted by Mattel in 1959, and with $1 billion in sales, it became the most profitable toy for the company. Expansion led to dozens of jobs for Barbie, which is a window into the world for children.

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“It’s letting them explore, at least what’s possible,” she said.

The idea of offering a “Retro Night” for parents to head back to their childhood by way of vintage dolls: “Great idea, I love it!” she said. “It reminds you of a simpler time.”

Little Doll Studio, 137 North Park Ave. in Rockville Centre

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