Patrick Robinson
Sam Tropp and Sandi Bender at Alki Beach Miniatures. The couple live on Alki and Bender owns and runs the shop that caters to all things small. Everything from raw lumber, to tableware, furniture, carpets, and much more, fit comfortably into her 350 foot store at 2622 Alki Ave. S.W.

SLIDESHOW: Alki Beach Miniatures is big on tiny

50,000 items fit into a 350 square foot space

You could call it big news but that might be misleading. A tiny new store with an equally diminutive style of inventory, Alki Beach Miniatures is now open at 2622 Alki Ave. S.W. It's tucked in between Alki Beach Tattoo and Lucky Ladyz medical marijuana dispensary.

Owned by Sandi Bender and assisted by her boyfriend Sam Tropp, the store is a treasure trove of tiny. More than 50,000 items are very carefully organized in a 350 square foot space.

Bender and Tropp live just down the beach. She can walk to work and Tropp, who must tend to the affairs of his aging father in London, traveling there frequently, helps out. She has been in the business since 1984 and up until a short time ago had a 1300 square foot shop in Kirkland called the Dollhouse Cottage. Now, with 1000 feet less, she couldn't be happier because her commute is easy and she expects the foot traffic to be phenomenal. "I've been open about a day and I've had dozen's of people come and ask about it already," Bender said.

While the store is a magnet for the curious, there's a surprisingly large customer base for these products. "We cater not only to the hobbyist for miniatures," Bender explained," but also for model railroad people, and I have a lot of customers who are model ship builders. One of my customers did a model of John Wayne's boat using all lumber that was purchased in my shop." When she says lumber, she means small beams, siding, decking, you name it, it's there and all very small.

The range of thing best seen under a magnifying glass is remarkable. "I just had a customer who bought a whole King Salmon, in miniature."

Most items in the shop are about 1/12th the size of their real world counterparts. But the price of the items varies a lot.

While some items like a super tiny Louis Vuitton purse (yes she has that) have a price ($45) that would seem to be similar (in equivalent reduction) to the actual human size version Bender said that it's not that expensive to get started and have a lot of fun. "I usually tell my customers to start with a "room box" (a small staging area that can be decorated and furnished), pick a theme and make something. A lot of people will start out because they want to have something for Christmas or a holiday. So they get a box and decorate and they can do that for under $100."

Since many people love the craft angle of miniatures, she sells all the components for that as well (though not the paint). Tables, chairs, and other mini scale items can all be built from the raw materials she has on hand. Bender even has a large format printer on site (no kidding) and prints out her own wall paper for customers, though there is a section for pre-printed wall coverings, wall to wall carpet that measures a foot across and much more.

Bender's own room box collection is in store too including a pastry shop with a very small cake, full lighting and even a working ceiling fan. Surprisingly perhaps, she doesn't have a lot of miniatures at home. "I have one doll house. It was built 50 years ago by the President of the British Toymakers Guild."

The walkway leading to the front door will get a set of very special miniature gardens built by West Seattle's small garden specialist, Janit Calvo. Alki Beach Miniatures is open daily from 11am to 5pm (though these hours may change).

You can reach Sandi through DOLLHOUSECOTTAGE@GMAIL.COM

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