Just Pretend

Classic Make-Believe
The ultimate dollstore
Also known as: 
iDolls Corporation
Still in Business?: 
One Sundial Center Ste 305
03103 Manchester, NH
United States
Sales channels: 
Direct to customer - catalog
Direct to customer - website
About the company: 

The history of the Just Pretend company is not long, but it is complicated. In summary, the Stardust Classics, Dream Doll Designer and Friend to Friend brands of dolls were created when the company was known as Just Pretend, though it eventually became a division of a new company called Kid Galaxy, Inc. in 1999.

Later, these dolls lines were transferred to iDolls, another division of Kid Galaxy, which expanded the doll offerings. All three doll lines are marked "Just Pretend" on their necks (since they used the same molds) and that is why collectors refer to them collectively as Just Pretend dolls.

The founder of the company was Mike Collins, a former executive at The Pleasant Company (of American Girl fame) who left when that company was bought by Mattel (of Barbie fame). In 1995, he founded a new venture in New Hampshire briefly called Childhood Companions, then Just Pretend. This company produced dress-up clothes, playsets like kitchen and doctor sets, and classic toys like wooden dollhouses -- "the very best in children's playthings for make-believe". The Stardust Classics doll and book sets were added to the catalog in 1997 with Alissa and Laurel. Kat was added to the line in 1998, the year Stardust Classics were featured as "Best New Toys for 1998" by Parents magazine. In 1999, the Dream Doll Designer line was added, then Friend to Friend. Also in 1999, the company expanded to include other products and a new (venture funded) parent company was formed called Kid Galaxy, Inc. Just Pretend became a division of Kid Galaxy. (Kid Territory was the other division of Kid Galaxy that sold childrens' furniture.)

Late in 1999, another Kid Galaxy child company, iDolls Corporation, was formed to be "The Ultimate Dollstore" through its iDolls.com website. iDolls took over selling the exclusive, Just Pretend doll lines (Stardust Classics, Dream Doll Designer and Friend to Friend) and Just Pretend reverted to selling dress-up clothes, playsets and other make-believe toys. It went out of business in 2000 after an extensive going out of business sale.

Just Pretend sold dress-up clothes including a robe and jewel set
that matched Stardust Classic Alissa's

The iDolls company formed in late 1999 and the website launched in May, 2000 though it only lasted one year.

The failure of the company was written up in "Of Dolls and Online Dollars", by Joel Kotkin, a Nov. 1999 article in The New York Times article.

Dan Gingras, Chief Technical Officer of iDolls, chalked up the failure of the company to the bursting of the dot com bubble.

As a "Launch Special" in early 2000, all the Dream Doll Designer dolls were offered at 75% off. This launched many doll collections and the JustPretendDolls YahooGroup as well. Dan Gingras noted in a message to the group "Those were AMAZING deals (way below our cost... we were actually paying you to buy them)." In 2000, the Dolls Unlimited line was created which included Little Sisters and My Li’l Punkin brands. These were soft-body American Girl and Bitty Baby clones respectively. The dolls and their clothing were manufactured for them by Götz, the German doll maker that also originally manufactured the American Girl dolls.

iDolls.com was a huge on-line doll store that carried an extensive variety of other manufacturers' dolls, and it was a vibrant community with information and resources for doll collectors. They carried dolls of all types (often at hard-to-beat prices), clothes and accessories, but they also had newsletters, message boards and (paid) experts sharing their knowledge.

Death of a Dot Com

How many of us remember this site/sight with nostalgia?

The demise of iDolls.com was exciting for those of us on the outside. In January 2001, the Going Out of Business Sale started with store-wide 50% off sales on everything (artist dolls, play dolls, collectible dolls, and so on) and progressed to 75%, then 80%, then 90% off. The site finally shut down in June, 2001. Kid Galaxy continued in business making Bendos (funky little wire-form flexible action-figure guys), radio-controlled vehicles and other more modern toys, but not dolls, eventually being bought by Lung Cheong International in early 2002.

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