If it’s tiny, whether it’s books, bicycles or bathtubs, you’ll find it at Bobbi Jo’s Miniatures and Dollhouses.
Bobbi Jo (Barbara) Krakenberg has operated the store specializing in miniatures and dollhouses and their furnishings from her Spokane Valley home for 20 years. She’s never advertised. Customers usually find her by word-of-mouth – the world of miniatures is indeed a small one.
“I just had a nice couple from Canada here,” she said recently.
The store sprang from her passion for miniatures.
“I love small things! It’s an obsession, I think.”
She can trace that obsession back to childhood.
“I had a dollhouse and my mom gave it away,” Krakenberg said. “I rue that day!”
So 40 years ago she bought herself a dollhouse.
“I always wanted a house with a tower and I knew I’d never own one,” she explained.
The dollhouse stayed unassembled under her bed for 10 years. She was busy raising her family and running a retail clothing boutique.
When she finally assembled the dollhouse and began furnishing it – she was hooked on the hobby.
She joined the Spokane Miniature Society (part of NAME, the National Association of Miniature Enthusiasts) and began teaching workshops. Krakenberg sold wholesale supplies to the members, and one thing led to another.
Now, several rooms in her home are devoted to the business. Enthusiasts can purchase everything from plain, wooden structures that need paint, shingles, roofs and windows, to the tiniest furnishings imaginable.
There are finely crafted silver tea services made by a silversmith, pink glass dishes from England and genuine porcelain bathroom fixtures crafted in Germany.
Fireplaces and lamps glow with the warmth of LED lighting, and no small detail is overlooked – including miniscule bottles of shampoo and bars of soap for the bath.
Not all miniatures go in dollhouses; some hobbyists enjoy displaying their collections in shadow boxes.
While some craft or hobby stores carry miniatures, Bobbi Jo’s is the only store in the area that’s devoted exclusively to them.
“The next closest store is in Billings, Montana,” she said.
And she shuns the internet. No e-Bay or Craigslist for her.
“I don’t like computers,” she said. “Here people can really see what things look like.”
Krakenberg said creativity is the lure. She makes many of the furnishings herself and also builds and decorates dollhouses for customers.
“I used to go from one hobby to another,” she said. “But this encompasses them all: knitting, woodworking, painting, decorating, sewing – even electrical work.”
She’s currently working on a dollhouse for a customer who will one day give it to her granddaughter.
“Children need to be taught how to handle precious things,” she said.
Krakenberg’s most unusual commission was creating a miniature version of the old Cheney Schoolhouse.
“It’s on display at EWU,” she said.
She also has her own collection, and the dollhouse with the tower that started it all is on display.
“But when you’re busy working, you don’t have time to do your own stuff,” she said.
Still, Krakenberg, 78, has no plans to retire.
“It’s a passion,” she said. “I never get tired of it. I enjoy the people.”
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