Dover hair-salon owner has a heartwarming display of Nutcrackers that's open to the public.

Some are in the military. A couple are teddy bears. There’s a gingerbread man, an ice skater and a Mickey Mouse. 

What are they?

They’re dolls in Michael Angelo Williams’ collection of nutcrackers. Williams has ornamented the interior of his Dover salon, Michaelangelo’s Hair Designs, with more than 300.

This display will be up until mid-January and the public is welcome to drop by during business hours.

Williams has made it a seasonal tradition to showcase nutcrackers in the salon since he opened his doors 12 years ago. His clients have helped him build the collection.

“I’ll get anywhere from 10 to 15 just from clients each year because they know I collect them,” Williams said. “It’s like they try to outdo each other as far as what they give me, or they can’t wait to see the expression on my face when I open a gift.”

He’s been gifted about 30 nutcrackers this year. The excitement surrounding Williams’ dolls started in the spring. But it was an accident.

‘I might be dead’

In April, Williams showcased an Easter Bunny nutcracker in celebration of Easter. However, some of his clients took that as a sign that he’d already begun displaying his dolls.

So he started receiving new nutcrackers as gifts, way in advance. In July a client added a Mickey Mouse nutcracker to his collection.

“She’s around 80 years old and said, ‘I’m bringing it to you now,’” Williams explained. “I said, ‘why, it’s not Christmas yet?’ She said, ‘Baby, I’m 80. I might be dead by Christmas.’”

Williams said the woman is alive and well.

“I actually saw her [a few] weeks ago,” he said. “She’s been in to get her hair cut and everything. So she’s still living. She’s going to live a long time, but it was kind of a running joke.”

In his nutcracker collection, “there’s only four that are duplicates, and they’re soldiers. “I look at it like they’re guarding the salon,” he said.

His varied collection includes a Christmas tree, a Mardi Gras reveler, a Mexican holding maracas and a woman in the military. One he was given is armed with a guitar and long hair. But he hasn’t determined if it’s a music celebrity.

“It kind of looks like Rick James or Michael Jackson,” he said.

Another prized doll is his pirate.

“I like the pirate, he’s one of my favorites because if you look at him he’s very detailed and even has the braids in his hair,” he said. “He’s got the coins and a little parrot.”

Williams also fancies his black figures.

“The black nutcrackers are hard to find. They’re very rare,” he said. “If you see one, most people would just go ahead and buy it.”

The early days

His grandmother is responsible for his nutcracker habit. She got him hooked around the tender age of 12, giving him a relatively plain doll with a long ponytail. To this day, it is on display in the salon.

Once Williams became an adult, he began to look at the dolls as conversation pieces and started displaying them on the walls of the salon. He showcased about 30 his first year.

“Every client that walks in, the first thing they’ll say is, ‘Oh my gosh, the decorations are gorgeous. The salon is beautiful,” Williams said.

And there’s one for everybody.

“When I was in beauty school, there’s two things they taught us that we should not talk about: that’s politics and religion,” he said.

“A nutcracker is sort of a neutral decoration,” he added. “It’s something that can be left out year-round and it won’t offend anybody.”