[The following article appeared in the Johnny Gruelle Raggedy Ann and Andy Museum's quarterly newsletter for museum members, FOR THE HEART'S SAKE!, Volume 5, Number 3 (Summer 2003). This profile was written by Art Ranney and appears here with permission.]
The magic that Johnny Gruelle wrote about so often isn't restricted to the pages of children's books. Somehow, Raggedy Ann continues to cast her spell across the decades and well into a new millennium. Charles and Cheryl Platt, of Macon, GA, are proof of the attraction that Raggedy Ann holds, given half a chance.
The Platts are the owners of Raggedy Land, an online business. But it didn't happen by design; their story shows what can happen when one little Raggedy foot gets in the door - and Raggedy Ann gets into your heart.
Charles began the story:
It seems that the Platts moved to Macon in 1989. Not long after that, Cheryl, one of seven kids, mentioned that she wanted a Raggedy Ann doll. Charles decided to surprise her with a birthday gift, so he looked everywhere, but with no luck. He ended up ordering a pair of dolls, a 36-inch Ann and Andy set. That bit of success led the Platts to look for other Raggedy items. They checked flea markets and yard sales; Charles became an early Internet user, too, in search of Raggedys, but there were very few sites and very little information was available.
Through a co-worker who was taking a course in HTML (the basic language of the Internet), Charles learned how to write HTML and create a Web page.
"It was just something to do," Charles said. "I wasn't aiming to do anything except put a collection of information together."
What happened instead was that a lot of people found the site and began asking Charles about Raggedy Ann and Andy. Other people began offering information. Soon, Charles was sending out a regular newsletter.
"This is about the time I became a computer widow," Cheryl said, with a laugh.
"I wasn't an expert, but I kept learning more," Charles said.
About this time, Cheryl's job situation changed. She was a part-time nurse with a regular schedule that allowed her to spend time with their young son Mark, but the scheduling became erratic.
"I thought, 'I just don't want to do that any more,'" she said.
In the meantime, Internet users kept sending messages, asking the Platts how to find Raggedy Ann items. Inspiration struck.
"Why don't we just buy some of those items and sell them ourselves?" the Platts thought.
They invited an Applause representative to their house ("I think she just thought we were crazy," Charles commented.) They bought some dolls and advertised them on their Web site.
"We bought a fax machine and just waited for someone to send us an order," Charles said.
"Within the first week, we had a fax order from Japan," Cheryl said. "It was very fun, very exciting. It was something Charles and I could do together."
"It just kind of snowballed from there," Charles said.
The Platts still operate out of their house, but it's a different house, since they ran out of room in the other one. (The move was partially prompted by Mark's complaint that there was "no place to sit down" in the old house.) RaggedyLand.com is a Yahoo store, and the Platts have what amounts to a warehouse in the basement of their home. As of April, they've been in business officially for five years.
At about the same time Raggedy Land was launched, the Platts met Tom and Joni, who were still living in Tucker, an Atlanta suburb.
"We met at a restaurant here in Macon," Cheryl said. "It was just instant kinship and friendship and like we'd known each other forever."
That sort of camaraderie is part of the Raggedy magic, the Platts have found. From the first, they've found great people wherever the Raggedys are.
"Everyone is so gracious, it's so much fun," Cheryl said. "Until people get to experience it, they don't understand it. People become more than customers, they become friends."
The Platts are huge boosters of Raggedy Ann, not just vendors. They include a Museum brochure with each order and also pack a subscription form to "Rags." They've been members of the Museum since January 1999, when Joni and Tom first began the process of establishing it.
Even the family dog, Tiff, gets in on the act. She likes to inspect every new Raggedy item that arrives and has made friends with the UPS driver.
"We just say we started collecting and it got out of control," Cheryl said.
But really, it was magic.