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HEARD ON THE BEAT / TOURISM

Mott's Miniatures Museum Finds Itself in Big Trouble

December 03, 1996|MARLA DICKERSON | Marla Dickerson covers tourism for The Times

Reopened Nov. 15 in Buena Park after a four-year hiatus, Mott's Miniatures Museum already has run into a sizable problem: minuscule attendance.

It seems customers are balking at paying admission to see "The Last Supper" painted on the head of a pin, costumed fleas and other memorable favorites from one of Orange County's quirkiest tourist attractions, according to owner Christopher Mott.

"It's discouraging and disheartening," said Mott, the third generation of the Mott clan to carry on the miniatures trade. "People encouraged us for years to reopen the museum. Now that it's open, we aren't getting the support."

The museum's own tradition is part of the problem. Located for 34 years inside Knott's Berry Farm, the exhibit was "free" with the price of admission to the Buena Park theme park. After Knott's terminated the lease in 1992, the Mott family put the museum exhibits in storage while it worked to replant its retail business in a new spot.

Earlier this year, the Motts obtained a $75,000 Small Business Administration Loan to expand their retail location at 7900 La Palma Ave. and reopen the miniatures museum a couple of doors down.

The family planned to use the museum principally as a marketing tool to draw customers to the retail outlet. The $4.50 admission was meant only to cover the rent and utilities on the space. But attendance has been so dismal the family already has dropped it a buck.

"People expect it to be free after all those years at Knott's," Mott said. "It's going to be a tough thing to overcome."

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Marla Dickerson covers tourism for The Times. She can be reached at (714) 966-5670 and at marla.dickerson@latimes.com

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