Simpich past, present, future shown
David Simpich shared his life as the son of internationally known Old Colorado City doll-makers Bob and Jan Simpich, as well as future plans for the “Simpich
Showcase,” during an hour-long presentation Oct. 10.
He also delighted an audience of about 75 people in the Old Colorado City History Center by displaying extremely rare Simpich pieces, including a King Arthur that was never copied (because it was a present from his parents, who made it to look like him when he portrayed Arthur in a school play).
David started with his earliest memories - in the '60s, when Bob and Jan were still running the Simpich Character Dolls business out of their house in Manitou, and other family members would help out, and Bob and Jan would stay up late painting the blue in each doll's eyes, and there was a hustle and bustle to tidy up the house's clutter when “doll people” would come by. David had a particular fascination with the lighted 10-by-6-foot case that displayed the various dolls for customers. “I made it my job” to turn the case's light on, he recalled with a grin.
At age 9, noticing the increasing growth of the business and how much more the phone was ringing, he told his parents, “You need a store,” David remembered. Eventually (he's pretty sure now that they'd already been thinking the same way), Bob and Jan followed through on that idea and opened the store in Old Colorado City in 1978.
At the nearer end of the time frame, David talked about the last days of the business. “By 2005, my parents knew they had to make an important step,” he said. “They could either sell and see the dolls be made off-shore or they could close the business and retire.”
The facts were that the sales of truly handmade dolls had been flat for several years - a victim of a “whole change in mentality” regarding collectibles - and the decision was up to Bob and Jan.
David is proud of the action they finally took. “My parents did something very brave,” he said. “They decided to to protect what they'd done. They didn't want people to pick up a doll in the future and look at the bottom to see to if it had been made in China or in Old Colorado City… Now it's going to mean something when Simpich dolls are handed down, that they were made during the 54 years that my parents did it.”
But at the time, many people were not happy at the news, and David kept hearing suggestions from people that he step in and keep the business going. These were “like daggers in my soul,” he said.
Now, those “daggers” have changed to an “epiphany,” to use his word. The Simpich Showcase, which is under construction in the first-floor portion of the former doll-manufacturing facility at 2411-2413 W. Colorado Ave., will provide various outlets for people still interested in the doll/art experience. There will be an art gallery featuring paintings by his parents - both were classically trained artists for whom the dolls were originally just a hobby - as well as a museum of Simpich dolls in 53 display cases, a doll consignment store and a 70-seat theater featuring marionette shows by David, who makes his own characters and has been a professional puppeteer for 24 years.
“I feel it's my mission and calling to carry on what my parents have done, as far as possible,” David said.
He and his wife Debby, who have been married 25 years, will be operating the Showcase on the first floor, while upstairs, where sewing and casting once occurred and his parents had their offices, four residential loft units will be built and sold.
As he closed his talk, David thanked everyone for listening, expressed surprise that he'd talked for “a whole hour” and expressed a certain relief for keeping his composure during that time. “I was really hoping I could get through this without choking up,” he said, “because this is so close to my heart.”
Westside Pioneer article