DOODLET’S; MORE THAN A HALF CENTURY AFTER SHE BEGAN PEDDLING WHIMSY, STORE OWNER IS PERSUADED TO SELL TO LONGTIME FAN; CHANGING OF THE GUARDIAN

Byline: BOB QUICK

Take one woman who’s owned an iconic Santa Fe retail store for more than 50 years and now wants to step back … and another woman who’s in love with that same store and wants to take over.

Sounds like a deal — and it is. On Monday, Theo Raven will officially complete the sale of her Doodlet’s downtown retail store to a new owner, Lisa Young, who lives in Dallas but plans to relocate to Santa Fe.

"I've been doing this for 58 years. It’s kind of a teary transition," Raven said Thursday in explaining her decision to sell the shop at 120 Don Gaspar Ave. "I'm looking forward to having time off and being with my dogs outside in God’s world and being at home and cooking for my friends. I haven't done that in so long because I'm too tired at the end of the day."

Raven, 79, received numerous offers to buy Doodlet’s in recent years, but she decided to sell it to Young, who wrote the most persuasive letters asking to acquire the business.

"She’s been a fan of the store for a long time," Raven said. "She touched my heartstrings."

Young, who is 55 and was born the same year Doodlet’s opened, has extensive experience in retail, having grown up in a retail family, she said. Her family owned a business called Arnold’s of Dallas, a store that carried some of the same whimsical items Raven does at Doodlet’s.

At one time, Young worked for a company called The Container Store as a buyer and in operations.

She prefers retail. "My heart is with shopkeeping," she said. "I love people and the customer service that goes along with that. I don't like big-box retailing."

Young added, "I've been in love with Doodlet’s since I was 10 years old. I went to University of New Mexico and spent a lot of time up here" in Santa Fe at the store.

Once she takes over the store, Young doesn't plan to make many changes, at least not to start.

"I think Theo has done an amazing job over all these years," Young said. "I will try to live up to that. But there’s no way I can fill her shoes."

One change Young said she might make is to introduce an online store that would sell Doodlet’s items using the Internet.

"It would be nice for our customers to buy from Doodlet’s when they're not in town," Young said.

Young isn't too worried about Doodlet’s losing sales because of the weak economy.

"I think she (Raven) has a little bit of a niche business that won't be affected the way other businesses have," Young said. "Her (Raven's) range of merchandise ranges from 5 cents to $500, the bulk of it under $20. It’s a very affordable place to shop, which is a good thing."

Young will be renting the Doodlet’s space from Raven, who owns the building on Don Gaspar where Doodlet’s is located. Raven also owns three unoccupied condominiums in the same building that were completed in 2008.

Raven couldn't say what the asking price of the condos is and referred a reporter to Paul McDonald.

Doodlet’s got its start after Raven graduated from Santa Fe High School in 1949 and began working in a sandwich shop.

In the same plaza off Palace Avenue near where she worked, two women were running a retail shop, a business that immediately appealed to Raven, since one of the women sat in front of the store and read books all day.

"I thought that was terrific way to make a living," Raven said.

Eventually Raven, with the help of her mother, borrowed some money, bought the business and renamed it Doodlet’s Christmas Shop.

Friends started calling the business Doodlet’s, a name suggested by artist Will Shuster, a friend of the family.

In the early days, Doodlet’s got a big boost when the revolving miniature Christmas trees made by Raven and her mother were noticed by department-store magnate Stanley Marcus.

He immediately wanted them for Neiman Marcus.

Over the years, Doodlet’s moved several times, finally ending up in a building at 120 Don Gaspar, at Water Street, that Raven bought in 1967.

Raven, a Santa Fe native, was recently named a Living Treasure by the Living Treasures Committee. Her causes include Habitat for Humanity Habitat for Humanity, nonprofit ecumenical Christian organization that enables low-income people to own affordable, livable housing. Headquartered in Americus, Ga., it was founded in 1976 by businessman Millard Fuller and his wife.

An animal shelter is a facility that houses homeless, lost or abandoned animals; primarily a large variety of dogs and cats.  and the education of service animals. Raven’s mother, the late Helen Ruthling, who had come to Santa Fe as the governess of heiress.


Contact Bob Quick at 986-3011 or bobquick@sfnewmexican.com.

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