There’s a big love for little things at Ms. Peggie’s Place in Pacific Beach
Growing up, Michael Sue Nanos said she never wanted to play with dolls, much less have a dollhouse.
“My cousin had some miniature wooden furniture and I loved it, but having a dollhouse wasn’t part of anything I wanted,” said Nanos, describing herself as a tomboy.
Her customers, however, might be surprised at the admission, especially since Nanos is the owner of Ms. Peggie’s Place — Pacific Beach’s own dollhouse and miniature shop — and has been for the past 20 years.
Everything changed for Nanos when she was 27. About 45 years ago, she and her mother happened to stop at a small show in Mission Valley.
“It was a show featuring miniatures and dollhouses. When I walked through those doors I thought I had died and gone to heaven,” she said.
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Ms. Peggie’s Place
Address: 5063 Cass Street, Pacific Beach
Hours: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursdays to Saturdays, closed Sundays to Tuesdays.
She’s never looked back and her love of Lilliputian items has only grown.
The first miniatures she purchased were a feeding trough and a waterer for some tiny little chicks.
“It was the cutest thing ever. I never did use it — I never had a place for it. But I still have it,” she said.
It wasn’t long after the show when she purchased her first dollhouse, and “she’s still not finished,” Nanos said. The two-story model is being turned into an 1849 San Francisco bordello.
“She’s built and wallpapered and I have most of the things for her. But I never quite finished her,” she said, referring to the structure.
The first dollhouse she finished was Santa’s Workshop, in the early ‘80s.
Nanos said it is the little details that make the miniature pieces so special.
As an example, she described a piece she is currently working on.
“It’s a Western doctor’s office and sheriff’s office. I’m still gathering information and supplies and miniatures for it,” she said.
Some of the items she needs include tiny medicines and a phone.
“It would have to be an upscale, wealthy town that could afford to have a phone in the sheriff’s office,” she said. And, of course, such a phone will have to be “spot on.”
Although she disliked playing with dolls as a child, Nanos admits she sometimes includes miniature people in her creations, depending on the piece.
“I do research and I love the period pieces. But the scale and the detail have to be right,” she said.
Nanos purchased Ms. Peggie’s from the previous owner, who had the shop for 24 years.
“As soon as I found out there was a miniature shop in town, I went in. The owner was a fine artist who painted furniture and stuff,” she said. The two women got to know each other over the years.
Although Nanos was working for an insurance company at the time, she was searching for a storefront to keep her busy during her retirement.
Ms. Peggie’s then-owner made her an offer she couldn’t refuse.
Between her full-time job and the shop, Nanos found herself working seven days a week for the first 10 years she owned the store.
“But I wanted it and it’s something that I love,” she said of those days.
Although the previous owner passed away within a year of the sale, she probably would be pleased to know the shop has now been open continuously for 44 years, and its mission has remained unchanged.
“It’s always been just miniatures, not giftware or toys,” Nanos explained.
In the 1970s, there were about eight stores specializing in miniatures. Now, Ms. Peggie’s is the only miniature specialty shop in San Diego, and people come from miles away to find little treasures.
For dollhouse makers, the shop sells dollhouses, building kits and materials ranging from how-to books to scale lumber, lighting, dollhouse people, animals, furniture, food, home accessories and more.
But not everyone who shops is buying for tiny homes.
“In addition to dollhouses, we have theater folks doing stage sets in miniature. And for about 15 years, I was getting architectural students making projects for their class,” she said.
Parents bring in their children making dioramas for school projects. Some buyers are looking for miniature items for jewelry, to include in memory boxes for special occasions, to honor someone who has passed or to decorate printer’s trays or small shelves.
Nanos said the range of customers is amazing, and something she didn’t expect when she bought the store.
Just like her customers, her miniatures come from all over.
“I have wonderful artisans from Spain and Germany and all over the world,” she said. “I’m always looking for someone new, especially when I travel to local shows or other shops.”
Some of her favorite items are the diminutive foods, which she said are incredible and some of the biggest sellers.
Would-be sellers of the petite wares, however, have to pass her disconcerting eye. Anything with the incorrect scale is out.
“The detail has to be there — for me, it’s everything,” she repeated.
Nanos makes sure her inventory is unique by taking in consignment items and sometimes buying entire miniature estates.
Kelly Farr from Santee has been shopping at Ms. Peggie’s for nearly 15 years. The estate items are a major draw.
“Many of the estate items she offers are vintage and unique, and you can’t find them at any other store,” Farr said.
Like many dollhouse enthusiasts, Farr builds her own creations. She also praises the selection of building material available.
“You won’t find the selection she has anywhere else, either. She has mini trim, mini landscaping materials and more,” she said.
Farr said she usually spends 4 to 5 hours at a time in the shop, buying and catching up with her friends and Nanos.
As a member of the San Diego Miniature Crafters Club, she also appreciates Nanos’ advice and help.
“It’s not just about making the sale with her. She’s wonderful and I really enjoy my time in the shop,” she said.
Nanos offers classes for children once a month. There is a waiting list to join. Since adult classes are more involved, she only offers those periodically.
Once a year, on the last Saturday in June, the shop hosts a sale. Nanos said some customers plan their vacations to coincide with the annual event.
And while trends and styles have changed quite a lot in the past 20 years, she said her favorite part of having the shop has not.
“I love the folks that come in. I would hate being online and not being able to have the interaction. I want to be involved with their projects, to help them with a problem or to find a product. I can’t do that online,” she said.
Nanos also loves having a shop off the beaten path in Pacific Beach.
“It’s a walking community and I love it. I get to play with other people’s dogs and I’m in a lovely little spot in a neighborhood. I’m three blocks from the ocean and can go watch the sunset when I get off work — it’s all good,” she said.
When not at work, Nanos has a full-sized love of crafts.
“I love all kinds of crafting, from scrapbooking to sewing. Both of my parents were artists, and whatever I wanted to work at as a child, they made sure I was supplied for it,” she said. Her first job was at the well-known hobby store, Michaels.
But few things can beat the combination of fellow crafters who also love miniatures.
“They are some of the nicest folks you’ll ever want to meet. It’s just a lot of fun,” she said.