Arts & Entertainment


Colorado Springs finally gets a LEGO store to call its own
News  /  Arts & Entertainment

Photo by Nick Raven

There are plenty of places in Colorado Springs ready to sell you the latest and greatest LEGO sets. The obvious ones are hypermarkets like Walmart and Target, but the popular Danish plastic bricks have trickled into other national chains like Best Buy and Barnes & Noble as well.

But Caleb and Becky Thorne, who are Colorado Springs-based adult fans of LEGO (AFOL, in fandom-speak), wanted something more.

As a frequent visitor to the nearest LEGO Store — in South Denver — for sets and individual bricks, Caleb had trouble sourcing white pieces to make snow for his Winter Village set. When the official store didn’t have what he was looking for, he got creative.

“I was looking around on Google and found the Bricks & Minifigs location in Littleton,” he says. “I told Becky, ‘Hey, we’ve got to go up and check this out, see if it’s any good.’” With huge bins of individual pieces, Bricks & Minifigs didn’t disappoint. “It was love at first sight,” he says. 

“There was really nothing like this in Colorado Springs and there hasn’t been,” he says. Growing up, Caleb frequented the Zany Brainy toy store that once stood at Woodmen Road and Academy Boulevard — the place where he once took his savings for a Nintendo 64 console and spent it all on LEGOs instead. A store like Bricks & Minifigs here would bolster the local LEGO community, Caleb thought, but also save them a lot of hassle. “Driving an hour and a half every month [to the LEGO Store] gets a little bit tiring,” he says. 

In January 2022, the Thornes contacted the Utah-based retailer and began the Bricks & Minifigs’ franchisee training program. They learned about the brand and operations before crunching the numbers to see if they could make it work financially. By May, they were officially signed on, and with their December soft open, they joined over 50 existing Bricks & Minifigs locations across the United States and Canada. Dozens more are on the way.

While the store doesn’t offer as many new sets as your typical retailer, their niche is offering what the big boxes — and even the official stores — don’t. Their bulk bins allow customers to pick through and buy only the pieces they need. Inside glass cases are special finds like Harry Potter minifigs and Jurassic World dinosaurs that the store was able to sort out by hand. You’ll still find plenty of surprises in the bulk bins, like rare tiles or pink and aqua pieces from LEGO Friends sets. Bricks & Minifigs also offers third-party props and minifig armaments for historical dioramas or other original works — “my own creations,” or MOCs among fans — when LEGO officially shies away from military sets and mature-rated properties.

Caleb and Becky Thorne, co-owners of Bricks & Minifigs (Photo by Nick Raven)

Photo by Nick Raven

Photo by Nick Raven

Photo by Nick Raven

Photo by Nick Raven

Bricks & Minifigs isn’t owned or operated by the Denmark-based LEGO Group, but the toymaker allows for aftermarket retailers like theirs so long as they remain on good terms — even allowing them to display a large LEGO logo in their window. Primarily, this means that they don’t offer any products from LEGO’s competitors — a group that has grown since LEGO’s brick patent expired in 2011 — even if they’re physically compatible. Bricks & Minifigs’ store-branded sets and MOC displays also use LEGO parts exclusively.

It’s a buyer’s market for LEGO fans there — but it’s a seller’s market too. Between their December soft launch and January grand opening, the Thornes invited the public to sell their LEGO bricks and sets to build up their inventory. This not only bolstered their bulk bins but gave them plenty of rare new sets. They don’t buy by the pound, but instead by quantity.

“We’ll go through, make sure that it’s actual LEGO and see if there’s other things mixed in or you know, how clean it is,” Caleb says. “All that kind of stuff can affect the price.” For that reason, they don’t give quotes over the phone. (He also showed us the back room, where most of the pieces are washed, mitigating concerns over hygiene.)

Buying used LEGO pieces means they can offer a lot more options at the “build-a-minifig” station where customers can assemble their own custom LEGO figurines. They also stock unopened, retired sets and display used, completed sets as well. Since the grand opening, the Thornes had already sold some of their largest used sets, but more keep coming in — and they’re constantly adjusting prices based on auction sites and the local community to make sure sets move.

These are early days for the shop and they still have plenty to do. They want to decorate more, and build more hand-made LEGO signs. They have a bin for the more organically shaped Bionicle pieces, but they’re thinking of setting up another one for the advanced Technic pieces. The events room that hosted LEGO Masters contestants Casey and Jen for the store’s grand opening — and will eventually be home to birthday parties and celebrity events — is still being sorted out. While they sell mostly complete “as-is” used sets, the goal is to begin selling “certified” sets in which they’ve verified that all of the intended pieces and manual are included with the original box, a process that can take a considerable amount of time.

The inventory is vast, and they keep keen eyes. The store tour was punctuated by Becky picking out and identifying fakes and competitor pieces (“That’s from Playmobil”), and dropping broken and chewed-up pieces in the Bin of Shame. On top of a pile of pieces in one of the bulk bins, they recreated a scene from Jaws with a boat and shark for social media.

Bricks & Minifigs isn’t trying to compete with the big-box retailers or even LEGO itself. What you find in the store reflects how the Thornes and so many local fans of all ages enjoy LEGO to begin with. “We want to take LEGO that’s already been played with, and maybe has just been sitting around,” Caleb says, “and we want to offer that to the next generation or whoever is going to find it and reuse it and get some more love out of it.”

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