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Dollhouse Dreams reopens as a one-stop child's paradise

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Brenda Derr owner of Dollhouse Dreams in the workshop area of the store Wednesday in the store's new location at 820 Ave G in downtown Fort Madison. The store has everything for dollhouse aficionados, plus the largest selections of Melissa and Doug toys in Iowa, a Bear Necessities build a bear work station and an ice cream parlor.

Dollhouse Dreams reopens as a one-stop child's paradise

FORT MADISON - There is a green three-story mansion in downtown Fort Madison. It has dozens of ornate windows, a balcony and swans swimming in a pond out front. It only cost $14,000 to build.

Oh, an it's about 4 feet tall.

Dollhouse Dreams is having a grand opening from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday at its new location, 820 ave G. The new store is triple the size of the old one and features a classic ice cream parlor.

Brenda Derr, the owner, has split her shop into several sections and given everything the aesthetic of an old country store.

"As we were looking at remodeling this, I wanted something that would fit into main street and give it the old country feel," Derr said. "It's worked out very well.  There are a lot of people that are loving the ice cream parlor, and it's bringing back a lot of fond memories."

Standing in the middle of the store, one feels as though they're in a different store depending on which direction they face.  One view is an old-fashioned ice cream shop.  Another is a stuffed toy store.  Still another is a bear building station.  The back corners are a craft workshop are for kids and a stuffed display of high quality dollhouse accessories. 

The ice cream parlor is wood with steel bar stools.  The stools have bright red cushions.  Derr serves Blue Bunny brand ice cream.  Her favorite flavor is the peach.  There's also a soda fountain with Coke-a-Cola and Pepsi products.  She can make and serve vanilla Cokes.

"I always thought we really needed an old-fashioned ice cream parlor on Main Street," she said.  

Brenda Derr, owner of Dollhouse Dreams, serves up a shake Wednesday behind the counter of Brenda's Old-Fashioned Ice ream Parlor, a new addition to her store in its new location, 820 Avenue G in downtown Fort Madison. The store has everything for dollhouse aficionados, plus Iowa's largest selections of Melissa and Doug toys and a Bear Necessities build a bear work station.

Derr designed the shop to sell merchandise and host events, sometimes in tandem.  For instance, the shop is open on Wednesdays and Saturdays for locals to come in and use the space to work on dollhouses.  While there they an peruse the shelves for new miniature pieces to place inside.

They have plenty of options.

There is a display of beds that would fit mice.  Some are on-of-a-kind and cost nearly $200.  Derr sells chandeliers the size of grapes, and sometimes helps customers install wiring so their light fixtures actually work.  She has tiny hand-painted cereal boxes in as many varieties as an average grocery store.

                    

"When I get working on a dollhouse, I just get in my zone,"  Derr said.  "Then I'll look at the clock and it's two in the morning."

Derr has worked out little story-line for every room of her dollhouses.  She has her first ever house on display in a glass box in the store.  There's an in-progress, micro Monopoly board game sprawled out on a child's room floor.  A recycling bin outside has little soda bottles spilling out, because Derr is "too lazy to pick them up."  Sometimes she challenges young visitors to the store to spot three teeny mice hidden in its rooms.

"the miniatures pull in a lot of people,"  Derr said.  "Not just locally, but miles away.  All over the United States.  I've had someone visit from Egypt a few weeks ago."

Besides the miniatures, Derr is a authorized seller of Melissa and Doug toys.  Dollhouse Dreams is the largest Melissa and Doug seller in the area.

"The kids love all the kitchen stuff over there,' she said while pointing to a mock cooking set.  "And they love all the stuffed animals."

The store has a Build-a-Bear style teddy bear construction station.  Children, usually at birthday parties, can make their own stuffed animal in the store and stuff it with cotton.

The store's grand opening will host several local sellers with prizes to win.  Derr is planning hourly giveaways with things such as locally filled gift baskets to give out.  She expects the ice cream parlor to be a hit and will give a free cone to anyone who enters and says "#MiniMe."

October is National Dollhouse and Miniatures Month.  Dollhouse Dreams is offering a discount to celebrate.  The store's Melissa and Doug toys are also starting their Christmas sale prices in October.

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