New kids’ boutique donates doll proceeds to charity

Published Jan 31, 2014 at 3:12 pm (Updated Jan 31, 2014 at 3:12 pm)

In 1958, Maurice Chevalier’s “Thank Heaven for Little Girls” opened and closed the movie “Gigi.” And, thank heaven for stores like the newly-opened Principessa, located in Quail Acres, to outfit those little girls in fashionable and eclectic ensembles.

Principessa, which means “princess” in Italian, is the second business endeavour of sisters Bernadette Santucci, Natalie Welsh and Jill Stiehler, and opened this past fall. The sisters also own Dance With Me by Sisters 3 dance studio in Washington. “The store was something we had planned to do in the past couple of years, and finally, we said, if we are going to do it, lets do it,” Santucci said.

The store’s bread and butter is clothing for young girls, and accessories – including jewelry designed by local designers – and boy’s attire are also available.

But, it’s their hand-made rag dolls, Bambolinas, that steal the show.

Bambolina means “baby doll” in Italian, and the dolls are all hand-made by Santucci’s mother, Sheryl Giovanelli, who lives in Richeyville, and aunt, Christine Omiatek, who lives in Ligonier. Doll parts are literally mailed back and forth, as Omiatek starts out making the bodies, which are then shipped to Giovanelli, who stuffs them, adds detail, and embroiders the face and hair. Omiatek also makes the clothing for each. “They love doing it,” Santucci says.

Proceeds from the dolls benefit two local charities. “We split the proceeds,” Santucci says. “Every other doll we sell, we give a donation to Autism Speaks or the Young Women’s Breast Cancer Foundation.”

Omiatek is a breast cancer and ovarian cancer survivor, and autism is near and dear to the entire family.

“The dolls are different and really seem to be becoming popular with the kids. We’ve done a surfer girl with a surfboard, holiday dolls in Christmas dresses, and we’ve even done dolls whose outfits match some of our dancers’ costumes. We can pretty much do anything you want,” Santucci said.

She said that a doll was made for a little girl whose dad plays for the Cincinnati Bengals, with the Bengal’s colors and her dad’s jersey number. “We can go in any direction with the doll designs,” she said.

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