Sadness knocks as popular Norm’s Dollhouse will close doors
I t’s the kind of place you go to find a 1950s refrigerator in a cool mint green with the freezer at the top.
The 4-inch-tall model. If you’re in the market for such an appliance, don’t wait to buy.
The Arapahoe County hobbyists’ institution Norm’s Dollhouse is closing its doors.
Norm’s began as a family activity in 1970. That was the year Norm and Norma Nielsen built and decorated their first dollhouse for their 5-year-old daughter.
“Norm really liked it,” Norma Nielsen said. “He started doing it for the neighborhood girls.”
The hobby grew into a passion, and in 1978 the Nielsens opened Norm’s Dollhouse in 540 square feet at the former Southglenn mall.
“It was excruciating keeping mall hours,” Norma recalled of the early days. “We were just learning about this miniature world. It’s a happy little world.”
The shop survived several moves — and a tragedy — before opening in 2002 in its current home at 7300 S. Colorado Blvd. in Centennial. Now, Norma, her son, David, and shop dog Spyro, a golden retriever, are preparing to close the Dollhouse doors. Its last day will be March 15, a month after its 39th anniversary.
“A lot of our really good customers have passed away or had to downsize and move into senior living places,” Norma said. “And I really feel that the internet has taken the business away from us. I must say, we’ve had a pretty good run.”
Owning a small business is never easy. Norm’s nearly closed for good Nov. 16, 1993. That was the day Norm Nielsen was fatally shot in the doorway of the family’s home by a man he had criticized for blasting music from his truck. A portrait of Norm hangs prominently on the store’s back wall.
“I was in total shock” after the shooting, Norma recalled. “If it had just been me, I doubt I would have continued on.”
But, by then, her daughter, Nancy, was working at the shop full time and David was getting increasingly involved. Norma persevered to honor Norm, the most confident man she has ever known. “We wanted to do it for him,” she said. Norm’s now encompasses 2,500 square feet and displays the depth and breadth of the miniatures world, from basic dollhouse kits to pint-sized pingpong tables and artisan cheese platters.
The shop has been the go-to place for hobbyists, as a recent customer attests.
“I called them up and said, ‘David, do you have any refrigerators from the 1950s?’ and he said, ‘Well, we have a few,’ ” said Barbara Pontarelli. “That was the kind of thing that you could get if you went out there.”
Pontarelli is board president at the Denver Museum of Miniatures, Dolls & Toys. Norm, who helped establish the museum, served on its board. It features
David Nielsen works on the interior of a custom dollhouse at Norm’s Dollhouse in Centennial. After the store closes March 15, Nielsen will continue to produce custom dollhouse kits at his workshop on South Santa Fe Drive. Seth McConnell, The Denver Post