News Column

After long search, dollhouse store moves from Canal Park to Duluth's Lincoln Park

May 5, 2014

By Candace Renalls, Duluth News Tribune

May 05--Candace Renalls

For business owner Beverly Clark, the bad news came around Nov. 1.

She had four months to move her store -- the Teeny Weeny Miniature Cottage -- out of the second floor space she had leased at 306 S. Lake Ave. in Canal Park for 12 years.

Building owner Sherman Associates wanted Clark's business out to convert the upper two floors of 302-310

S. Lake Ave. into market-rate apartments.

Clark wasn't alone.

Five other businesses leasing space on the second floor would have to move out, including Kitchee Gammi

Design Co., a silk-screen artist, and the now-closed Duluth-Superior Magazine.

But Clark was the only

retailer. And her 3,500-square-foot space was filled with her dollhouses, dollhouse furnishings and accessories and kits.

Rent had been good, about $1,000 a month. And finding another downtown space that big for $1,000 or less proved impossible.

By late January, the

66-year-old Clark was getting desperate.

"The cheapest was $1,400," she said then. "I'm just so discouraged."

She quit looking downtown.

Her search moved on to London Road, Miller Trunk Highway, Duluth's hillside and Garfield Avenue. She even considered vacant houses in Duluth and heated garages in Hermantown.

"I was walking all over," Clark recalled last week. "Every bitter cold day, climbing over snowbanks, knocking on doors."

In early February, she drove down West Superior Street and slowed near a couple of empty storefronts. One -- at 2031 W. Superior St. -- proved to be the answer with a monthly rent of $600 and a landlord that Clark raves about.

"I looked around, and I said, 'I can make it work,' " she said.

But with thousands of items in her store, from miniature Tiffany-style lamps to jumbo handcrafted dollhouses and display cases, it took a month to move, pushing her past her Feb. 28 deadline.

And moving from 3,500 square feet down to 1,700 square feet was an added challenge.

Today, six weeks after the move, boxes still fill the store, waiting to be unpacked, and dollhouses wait to be furnished for displays.

Setting up the store will take some time.

She's starting in the front of the store and will work her way to the back, while still being open from 1-5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays.

"People have been buying out of boxes," Clark said.

Prices range from $5 for a small dollhouse end table to several hundred dollars for a roll-top desk complete with drawers and cubby holes. The average dollhouse, made out of plywood, costs about $250.

Some of Clark's customers have found her new location in Lincoln Park, and some passersby stop in out of curiosity.

The store has a small niche market, mostly women older than 55.

"It's not for children as much as the collector," Clark said.

But, she says, "men's eyes pop out" when they see the craftsmanship of the dollhouses and the intricate wiring she does that lights up the rooms.


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