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Dollhouse shop gets new home in Seminole

The store, formerly in Largo, features a variety of kits, fully assembled houses and accessories.

In his youth, Ron Baltrunas was handy at building model boats and ships. In more recent years, he has become skilled at making miniature dollhouses, an art he turned into a business.

He got into it by happenstance.

Baltrunas and his wife, Wendy, owned and operated a gift shop in New England and carried a few kits for making the dollhouses.

"No one would buy them, so I built some demo models," he said. "Then they sold faster than anything else, and we found our specialty."

Now, after six years in Largo, he has moved the store, Dollhouses Plus, to 12681 Seminole Blvd.

The store features a variety of kits ranging from colonial farms to Victorian manors, and there are some 20 models on display. Prices for the kits start at $85 and go up to hundreds of dollars. One inch equals one foot in the scale of the houses.

For customers who don't want to assemble the houses themselves, Baltrunas will partially build them, or he can deliver them completed and fully decorated. To build a shell costs from $50 to $100. A fully equipped house can range from $300 to more than $3,000.

Each house, customized for the buyer, is a new challenge, and that's what he enjoys most, he said.

"I'm basically a miniature contractor," he said.

He does everything from rearranging windows and doors to installing wallpaper and electrical wiring.

Decorating the houses is what Wendy Baltrunas likes to do. "I like to set up the rooms," she said.

Building and decorating miniature dollhouses is an international hobby, said Mary Kinloch of Clearwater, an artisan of the International Guild of Miniature Artisans.

She makes many of the miniature flowers, planters, hanging plants and trees Baltrunas sells in his store. Prices range from $10 for a floral bouquet to more than $1,000 for a tropical rain forest used for a landscape.

"People travel all over the country to shows to buy handmade miniatures to furnish the houses," she said. "It's a big hobby. I have customers all around the country."

The new store in Seminole is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays and from noon to 5 p.m. Sundays. The phone number is 581-8626.