KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Requests for a castle from 1983 and a black Labrador dog may sound unusual to most business owners, but not Bricks & Minifigs Kalamazoo, which will celebrate its grand opening Saturday.
“We started getting inquiries pretty much immediately once we announced that we were opening the store,” co-owner Allison Weiner said.
That’s because the new store is the first of its kind in West Michigan, giving Lego lovers a spot to buy, trade and sell their bricks, mini figures and sets.
It’s a big career jump for co-owner Adam Weiner, who previously ran the Farmers Alley Theatre in downtown Kalamazoo for 13 years until the COVID-19 pandemic hit, closing the theater’s doors for about 18 months.
Weiner said he had a lot of downtime then, which meant more time for Lego building, a childhood pastime that he got back into as an adult when his wife bought him a Lego set for his birthday.
“When the pandemic happened, I just fell completely into it. Like, let’s do this. Let’s build a city in the basement, you know that might be fun. And (I) just kind of fell into this community and really, really loved everything about it,” Adam Weiner said.
The couple signed a lease for their Oakwood Plaza storefront last fall. Adam Weiner says the 3,500-square-foot store at 1926 Whites Road sat vacant for about five years until they moved in and began building out the bare space.
Allison Weiner designed the store. She says the Lego base plate trim took her months to piece together with the help of friends and family.
“That was an idea I had that I’m still not sure if I regret,” she said. “But my hands have healed and now I love it.”
The store also features doors that look like large Lego bricks, Lego clocks, locally built sorting bins with legs that look like Lego bricks, colorful chairs, wall decals with Lego terminology and a Kalamazoo sign built out of Lego bricks.
Adam Weiner says it’s taken about a year to get to this point. That includes scouring the Internet, thrift stores and Facebook Marketplace for Legos to fill his shelves and bins.
Adam Weiner says he even dipped into his own Lego collection, which once included 500-600 sets. The store is now stocked with hundreds of thousands of bricks, thousands of Minifigures and hundreds of new and used sets that are no longer sold in big box stores.
The Weiners’ store also sells after-market items like baseplates in a variety of colors and designs, Minifigure stands, Minifigure weapons and custom minifigs, from Albert Einstein to the late singer Prince.
“If you’re coming in for the missing piece for your set that you need to replace, and you want to dig through the bulk and find it, you are more than welcome to do that and pay for just one piece of Lego,” Allison Weiner added.
And behind the counter are staff who are passionate Lego builders that know the sets.
“My employees, definitely they’re like, ‘Are you putting that out on the sales floor? Can I buy that first?’” Adam Weiner said.
Lego has its own culture, with YouTube channels, a reality TV show on Fox and school clubs. Like puzzles, Legos also saw a surge in sales when the pandemic was surging. Adam Weiner says sales last year were 20% higher.
Perhaps that’s why the Weiners had no trouble hiring employees, bucking a national trend among businesses. The couple says they never even advertised their need for workers willing to build, sort, repair and share their Lego knowledge.
“We haven’t done a thing. They’re coming to us,” Allison Weiner said.
“People just started emailing us when we first announced, (asking), ‘Are you hiring?’” Adam Weiner said. “We’re still taking rolling applications, we’ll have a file.”
Starting Monday, Bricks & Minifigs Kalamazoo will start accepting Lego items customers want to sell or trade.
“The community supplies a lot of the inventory, so you can bring in your sets – complete or not complete, you can bring them in tubs all loose, doesn’t matter. We will buy it from you. Minifigures, we will buy them from you,” Adam Weiner said.
Weiner says he’s excited to see what comes into his shop starting Monday.
“There’s some Star Wars stuff I’m waiting (on) and some other older, modular or castle stuff that I’d love to see or old classic space stuff with the spacemen,” Adam Weiner said.
“I’m hoping to see the Taj Mahal. That’s very cool looking. It’s a giant set, beautiful,” Allison Weiner added.
Adam Weiner says he sometimes misses the theater, but there are some parallels in his new role, including a frenzied finish to Saturday’s grand opening.
“This is just like getting a show-ready. You know, the set’s not done, the lights aren’t working, all my actors don’t know their lines, it’s that kind of thing. But it comes together, just like anything else,” he said.
Bricks & Minifigs Kalamazoo will mark its grand opening with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 10 a.m. The Weiners plan to raffle off a new Optimus Prime Lego set as part of the celebration. They’ll also be giving away customized Minifigures wearing the Bricks & Minifigs Kalamazoo logo to anyone who buys from the store Saturday.
Bricks & Minifigs Kalamazoo will be open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. on Sundays.
The store expects to open its events room to parties in late July. Allison Weiner says she also looks forward to shifting from store designer to events and outreach coordinator.
“I’m really looking forward to working with the community to do some outreach. We hope to work with organizations like the school districts and maybe the Air Zoo, maybe some of the local senior centers or autism centers, maybe even we’ll be able to work with the hospital in the children’s unit,” she said.