Two years, thousands of passersby later, and Doll Museum still remains emptyFor nearly three decades, the Enchanted World Doll Museum housed unique and worldly dolls that were admired by tourists from across the United States. But what was once a unique attraction is now just an empty building, located across from one of the nation’s most well-known structures. The museum greeted tourists across the street from the Corn Palace in Mitchell for 27 years before it shut its doors in 2008 due to declining attendance.
By: Jennifer Jungwirth, The Daily Republic
For nearly three decades, the Enchanted World Doll Museum housed unique and worldly dolls that were admired by tourists from across the United States.
But what was once a unique attraction is now just an empty building, located across from one of the nation’s most well-known structures. The museum greeted tourists across the street from the Corn Palace in Mitchell for 27 years before it shut its doors in 2008 due to declining attendance. Since its closing, the building, with a stone front made to look like a castle, has remained vacant despite being on the market to lease.
As far as Mitchell officials are concerned, the building should be occupied, especially with its prime location across the street from an attraction that draws upwards of 200,000 tourists every summer. But some say the building’s castle-like appearance can be an obstacle for potential tenants.
“That building is quite unique,” said Carrie English, of the downtown improvement group Mitchell Main Street and Beyond. “It’s going to be hard to fill. You can’t just put in a hardware store or an electronics store.”
The building is owned by Otinel Iancu, of Banning, Calif. He purchased the building in October 2008 after noticing the building while he was vacationing in South Dakota. Since the purchase, the building has remained empty. Iancu’s plans involved a restaurant mall, with food from cultures around the world, but he said finances barred him from immediately moving forward.
In a recent phone interview with The Daily Republic, Iancu said he will return to Mitchell in two weeks to begin more plans on a business that will provide unique food, entertainment and education to Mitchell residents and tourists.
“That’s what I am thinking. But I’ve had this dream for a long time,” Iancu said. “The plans have not changed much, but I have made some progress.”
The building is currently available to lease through NAI in Sioux Falls for $3.75 per square foot. The property is valued for taxation purposes at $244,740, according to the Davison County Register of Deeds Office.
Iancu’s real estate agent, Jeff Brooks, did not return phone calls to The Daily Republic; however, Iancu said he plans to de-list the building at the end of the year.
Iancu hasn’t done much remodeling to the building — he removed the display cabinets and cleaned. He plans to keep the building largely in its current condition.
Whether or not the plans for a multifaceted restaurant are realized, English is ready to see a new addition to Mitchell’s Main Street business community. When the right business does set up shop, English think it’ll be the perfect location.
English would like to see a specialty restaurant or a new museum open in the building.
“At one time, the Corn Palace was surrounded by museums. It would give (tourists) another reason to stop and spend time after visiting the Corn Palace,” she said.
English was referring to the previous Enchanted World Doll Museum, just west of the Corn Palace, and the hot-air balloon museum that was located in the current Pepsi-Cola Theatre for the Performing Arts, just north of the Corn Palace. The balloon museum closed in 2001.
Bryan Hisel, executive director of the Mitchell Area Development Corporation and Mitchell Area Chamber of Commerce, said the doll museum building is in good shape. But he agreed with English that it will take a special kind of business to thrive in the structure. Once such a niche business is opened, it would gain numerous assets, including a location near the Corn Palace and adjacent public parking behind the building.
One of the building’s negatives, Hisel said, is its size. At about 9,000 square feet, there’s more room than most businesses need.
Hisel said the market will dictate the building’s future.
“The market hasn’t found a use for it,” he said. “Thousands and thousands of people have seen that property. The market dictates when and for what purpose and what price.”
Iancu said many passersby have inquired about the building.
“Quite a lot of people stop by to take pictures and ask about the building,” he said. “There’s interest.”
But until the right business calls the building home, “we sit there watching and wishing it would take on a new life,” English said.