EAST GREENWICH—Anyone who has taken a stroll down Main Street has undoubtedly seen the most peculiar of local small businesses: The Troll Shop. Nestled between en vogue bakeries and hip skater shops, the Troll Shop is unlike most anything else. It is there, after all, that trolls are sold.
Owner of the Troll Shop, Doreen Bullock, discussed the origins of the trolls and how such fantastic creatures came to find a home in East Greenwich.
“The trolls are Scandinavian,” Bullock said. “The people that make them are from Denmark and live in the United States now. They are all handmade in the Smoky Mountains.”
Like the mysterious creatures of Scandinavian myth and legend, the trolls of Main Street possess an enigmatic and unique nature, with no two being quite the same. This is due to their being handmade with materials local to the environment that they come from.
“When the family that makes the trolls were young, their father would make the trolls for them, because he would tell them the stories of trolls,” Bullock said. “And they would ask ‘what does a troll look like?’ So he made these trolls out of natural things from the woods nearby and eventually started making them for other people.”
“We like the uniqueness and the creativity of it. Every troll is different. And when we see people and they ask which one they should get we tell them that they need to look at it, because every one has a different expression.”
One of those early customers in search of the unique was Bullock’s mother, Edith Marra, who founded the Troll Shop way back in 1976, well before the mass popularity of high fantasy literature and film made creatures such as trolls part of the common psyche.
“My mother was always looking for something unique,” Bullock said. “Back when it opened we were carrying things like unicorns and dragons, mythological creatures. You couldn’t find that anywhere. Now all the little girls need to have a unicorn, but back in the 70’s that wasn’t so.”
During the 90’s, Marra left retail and bought the old Victorian-style childrens’ museum in Pawtucket, which she rented out for bridal showers and weddings. By 2012, however, the desire to go back to retail and to cultivate a home for the trolls once more won out, and Marra reopened the Troll Shop.
“She loved to shop and to find different things,” Bullock said of her mother, who passed away last September. “There was no point for her to go into a shop if it had just the same old things.”
When reflecting on the memory of her mother and the meaning the little magical shop has, Bullock confessed that she shared that passion for the different in common.
“I like the unique!” Bullock said. “When she died, my brother and I didn’t want to close the shop, because it was something she loved. It speaks for itself.”
The family, originally from Warwick, opened up shop in East Greenwich after stumbling serendipitously upon the property.
“Back then, we would drive through town,” Bullock said. “It was just by chance we one day we saw it and said, oh, there’s a vacant store!”
And a lucky find it was. There are few stores with the allure of the Troll Shop in terms of the power to bring in tourism and create a unique retail experience in East Greenwich. Particularly given the word of mouth nature of the business’ customer base.
“From the 70’s, people always found us by word of mouth,” Bullock said. “When my mother re-opened she was in her late 70’s, she wasn’t interested in marketing, she was interested in shopping. She loved meeting customers and introducing people to new things that she had found. “There really aren’t many stores like this around. We have people come in on boats from other areas to see what we have. Our business comes from all over. Once they find us.”
When asked what the future holds for the Troll Shop now that her mother had passed, Bullock showed no signs of slowing down, mentioning the expansion of the store’s collection of jewelry and other odds and ends in addition to the trolls that line the walls.
“We are revamping, getting all new things in,” Bullock said. “We still have a lot of jewelry, but we’re adding a lot of new things. We’re redoing the walls with new product and lighting the place up a bit. It will be good.”
Walking between the shelves of hand-crafted Scandinavian trolls and the sparkling displays of skull-shaped bangles and necklaces, between shelves filled with new copies of the Witch’s Almanac and tables topped with African carved elephant statues, it is difficult to imagine how much more one little shop can fit before bursting at the seams. Whatever is coming, however, it is sure to be magical.