By Mikael Krummel

Lego plastic construction bricks first appeared in 1950. Over the 70 years since, Lego estimates it has manufactured more than 600 billion toy pieces. Quite a few of those pieces can be found in Eugene — most notably downtown at Brick Builders and Bricks & Minifigs, two retail hobby shops that specialize in most things Lego.

Ask Brian Aljian, owner of Bricks & Minifigs, where Lego’s main attraction lies and he’ll tick off some key elements: mental dexterity, finger dexterity, broad age appeal. “It fills creative niches,” he says. “It fills puzzle niches. It’s a hobby.”

Ammon Hendrikson and Otter Nash, the owner and manager, respectively, of Brick Builders, would likely agree with Aljian—but then again, the two are clearly deep divers when it comes to nuanced elements of Lego culture. Hendrikson describes Eugene’s Lego scene as “strong, creative, and diverse.” His store is a community hub offering far more than just Lego pieces and box sets.

Brick Builders (BB) hosts monthly build challenges for kids, as well as Lego birthday parties and a variety of outdoor camps that provide non-Lego activities, like hiking, plant study, costume design, leatherwork, cosplay, and LARPing. “A lot of these kids have to get their ya-yas out before they can settle down and play with Legos,” Nash says.

And then there are BB’s more therapeutic Lego activities, like the Autism Group, which promotes social skills for foster kids with special needs. BB also has Lego sessions for recovering addicts and military vets with PTSD. In both of these groups, the activities reflect emerging fields of study.

What else? Well, there’s Brick Builders’ museum-like display of countless Lego builds, the store’s offer to locate rare Lego pieces for that ultra-special project you’re building, or the staff’s willingness to provide detailed advice about complex project designs and functional applications of Lego pieces containing computer chips. They’ll even give you recommendations about Lego sets as investment vehicles.

“COVID was a perfect storm for Legos,” Hendrikson says. “Prices inflated slightly, but demand held stable. Would you rather be stuck at home with a jigsaw puzzle with a bunch of sky pieces or a Lego build?”

Photo by Greg Burns