Person of Interest: Jill DeBroff, Teddy Bear doctor deluxe
December 9, 2012 5:00 AM
Jill DeBroff works on an older stuffed bear at the Teddy Bear Hospital of Pittsburgh in the back of her shop Babies & Bears at 4304 Butler St., Lawrenceville.
By Andrew Druckenbrod Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Jill DeBroff is every stuffed animal's best friend. If she wasn't the inspiration for Disney's animated series, "Doc McStuffins," then she should have been.
For more than a decade, Ms. DeBroff has been mending ripped, sagging, dirty and disfigured plush toys in her Teddy Bear Hospital of Pittsburgh.
Doll and stuffed animal restoration hospitals are among the most curious of places, and there aren't many of them left. She has the only shop in Pittsburgh dedicated specifically to it, tucked in the back of her shop, Babies & Bears, 4304 Butler St., Lawrenceville. And if you don't have an old bear to repair, you can get one there, as she also sells antiques.
Ms. DeBroff, who grew up in Point Breeze and now lives in Squirrel Hill, is the production manager of the St. Barts Music Festival, held on the Caribbean island every January. She runs this with her mother, Frances, a violinist and violist who created this remote festival. It stands then, that the younger Ms. DeBroff adores classical music and rarely misses concerts at the Pittsburgh Chamber Music Society.
What is the most damage sustained by a stuffed animal you repaired? Usually it is a 40 year-old teddy that's been left alone with a bored or angry canine. The eyes have gone missing, rhinoplasty is required, an arm ripped off ... a terrible sight to behold.
What's the most common toy ailments you see? The most common ailment I try to counteract is gravity. Over time, gravity pulls us all down or apart. In turn, I add the right kind of fluff in just the right places. Or I clean off attic debris which has been trapped within the weave of teddy's fur.
Your favorite spot in the 'Burgh ... Beneath the Benedum chandelier.
Do you get more collectors or kids bringing in "patients"? Actually, neither. The average client is still a proud companion of his boyhood teddy and he wants, now, to give it away -- all fixed up and ready for another round of love -- to his growing 2-year-old child. I also get many frightened people calling me up whose dog just ate their best friend's favorite stuffed animal!
You have $20 and four hours to spend in Pittsburgh. What do you do? Skeeball beneath the Kennywood Jack Rabbit (flasks optional) or ice skating in one of the 'Burgh's open-air rinks.
Will stuffed toys eventually make way for electronic, online or digital offerings? I think every little kid deserves to feel the security of holding onto a parents' hand or of a loved-one. Teddy bears offer a fine substitute when needed.
Three things always in your refrigerator ... Water, butter and JAR parfum.
Can't live without ... Chocolate, the man I adore, my family and relations and a great piece of music.
Best piece of advice you've ever received ... You must be the change you wish to see in the world and be who you are, and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.