Lego builds community and a family business at Wiregrass

Adam Smyk liked the sense of community he found in his 20-year career in the Navy. But, he often had to leave his family for six-month tours of duty at sea.

When he came home, he had to re-introduce himself to his young sons. One lasting bond between them was Lego. They could spend hours together snapping Lego bricks into space ships or create their own special projects.

Adam Smyk owns Bricks and Minifigs at The Shops at Wiregrass. The shop buys, sells and trades Lego pieces and box sets. (Kathy Steele)

“It was something for us to go out and get, and then, do it together,” said Smyk, who retired from the Navy about two years ago.

The family was living in Hawaii then, but New Tampa is home now.

And, Lego remains a bond between Smyk and his youngest sons, James, 10, and Andrew, 7. It also is the family business.

Smyk opened Bricks and Minifigs at The Shops at Wiregrass in March, at 28210 Paseo Drive.

The shop is the first, and to-date only, franchise of the Utah-based company to open in Florida. It’s sort of a Lego consignment shop with new items for purchase, but also opportunities to trade for store credit or cash.

Bricks and Minifigs sells older box sets that were never opened; missing pieces from retired Lego series that can be bought in bulk; and, of course, the minifigs (miniature figures) that are sometimes hard to find or, over the years, those that owners might have lost, like their favorite Star Wars figure.

Batman in the guises of a pink fairy or a mermaid or Marge and Homer Simpson fill display cases with their plastic tininess. One special minifig is a Lego mistake – Princess Leia with smooth, not wavy hair.

“It’s one of the rare Lego mistakes,” said Smyk.

Wesley Chapel residents Karen and Jacob Raffoul look at mini-fig pieces at Bricks & Minifigs at The Shops at Wiregrass.

Bins are filled with hundreds of Lego pieces that customers can dig through, find what they want, and pay for a bag full. One section allows customers to select pieces to build their own minifig.

“We have people who spend hours looking for that one piece,” Smyk said. “Some people come in for an hour or so and build, and just walk out.”

Wesley Chapel residents Karen Raffoul and her 13-year-old son, Jacob, looked through the minifig pieces on a recent Friday afternoon.

“This is really cool,” said Jacob Raffoul. “I never thought that you could customize your own (Lego) people.”

The store hosts birthday parties. Partygoers can build complimentary minifigs to take home or design small cars for derby races on the store’s racetrack. The birthday child also gets a complimentary “It’s My Birthday” minifig.

It’s truly a family operation that has connected with the Lego community.

Smyk’s son, Daniel, is product manager; his daughter-in-law, Jenny, is general manager; and his wife, Sonya, handles social media.

“I was looking to be part of a community when I got out of the Navy,” he said. “The Lego community is very passionate about what they’re about.”

Lego famously is almost a rite of passage for children.

The company began in the early 1920s as a store selling handmade wooden toys. The name Lego comes from abbreviations of two Danish words, “leg godt,” meaning “play well,” according to the Lego website.

But, Smyk said customers also can be young at heart or Lego collectors who love the creativity and imagination that the bricks represent.

One of his best customers is a 71-year-old woman whose doctor approves of her hobby.

“She loves Lego, but her doctor thinks it’s a good way to keep dexterity in her fingers,” Smyk said. “We really appeal to everyone.”

The shop is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., and on Sunday from noon to 6 p.m.

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Published August 8, 2018

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