By Sondra Barr
Photos by Mark Susan
LEGO is a family affair for the Blaz family. Longtime fans of the construction toys, Allen and Kat Blaz decided to turn their family’s LEGO hobby into a North Phoenix business, Bricks & Minifigs.
They were introduced to the franchise while visiting Kat’s brother in Albuquerque. “He took us to a Bricks & Minifigs for the first time and we thought it was a really cool concept,” she says. “At the time, we never thought we’d own one.”
Founded in 2009, Bricks & Minifigs is a buy, sell, trade model exclusively devoted to all things LEGO, including bulk bricks and other accessories. The minifigs in the name refers to the collectible, poseable mini-figure characters that come in sets or as individual pieces.
When they returned home to Arizona, Allen found out there was a Bricks & Minifigs in Avondale. He’d regularly make the long drive out to the store with their kids, Alec and Evie, to scope out the offerings.
“Out of the blue, Allen came to me last February and broached the idea of opening up a North Phoenix Bricks & Minifigs.” says Kat. “I’ve always liked the idea of owning a business. As a horse trainer previously, being my own boss and working for everything I make appeals to me. So I said, ‘Let’s do it.”
As a mom, Kat also saw the potential of opening up a kid-friendly store in a community she adores. “North Phoenix is really growing. There aren’t a lot of kid-type stores around here, yet there are a ton of families living here,” she says.
Another thing she liked about the idea: the LEGO industry is thriving, despite the pandemic. “LEGO became something more important for families to do together and to get kids off their iPads. I also like that it’s been a toy that’s been around for decades and has really stood the test of time.”
Allen, in business intelligence for Zelle, the peer-to-peer payment app, had been doing research on the concept for months prior to speaking with Kat. As soon as she gave the okay, he secured financing to get the ball rolling. Bringing the store to fruition proved more of a challenge.
“In our area, it’s such a new development that there aren’t many existing retail spaces that become available and, if one pops up, it’s quickly leased. So, we had no other choice than to invest in a new build,” says Kat.
The original plan was to open the store in August of last year, but between the city being short staffed, the cost of the build doubling in three months, and supply chain issues, the project was delayed. The extra time gave the couple time to thoughtfully plan out the store as well as build up their inventory.
“The biggest thing with Bricks & Minifigs is that it’s your one-stop shop for everything LEGO. There are no other stores around where you can find LEGO new in a box, you can find used sets, you can find minifigs by themselves, or you can buy pieces from our bulk area if you have a set and you’re missing a few pieces to complete it. We also have an area where you can build your own minifigs, which is really popular,” she says.
“We also buy and trade your old LEGO. If you have an old set that you want to get rid of, bring in the set, and we’ll give you cash in hand or trade-in value so that you can walk out with a new-to-you set.”
What’s truly unique about each Bricks & Minifigs store is the variety between locations. “All the used sets are what we’ve gotten from our community, so each store has different cool show pieces. We call them relics,” says Kat. The North Phoenix store’s relic is a custom Iron Man Hall of Armor, which has every single Iron Man marked minifig. Its value is close to $3,000.
While that seems like a hefty price tag for a kid’s toy, Allen points out that LEGO isn’t just for youth. “There are popular groups called AFOL (Adult Fans of Lego) and LUG (Lego User Groups) that have tremendous followings. There’s even a show called ‘LEGO Masters,’ where LEGO enthusiasts of all ages participate in a series of competitions that begin with a single LEGO brick and concludes with inspiring, complex construction.”
On Sundays, when normally closed, the store can be reserved for birthdays or private events. “If you book a birthday party with us, you get the entire store for your party,” says Kat, who knew they had to offer birthday parties because there aren’t a lot of options in the area. “As a mom of young kids, driving over 20 minutes away for a kid’s birthday party is crazy to me. Bricks & Minifigs is right around the corner.”
Eventually the store will also offer camps. The pair also plan on working with schools to support S. T. E. A. M. initiatives and LEGO clubs where children can use LEGO to continue learning and bolstering creativity. They’re also looking forward to working with nonprofits that have the same community values the couple holds dear.
“This is not only for the love of LEGO, but also about becoming pillars in our community,” says Kat. “We love this area, and we want to give back. It’s not just about opening a store and making money. For us, it’s about being an integral part of the community.”
The new North Phoenix Bricks & Minifigs is located at 1730 W. Happy Valley Road, Ste. 106. Learn more at bamnorthphoenix.com.
This content is sponsored by North Phoenix Bricks & Minifigs.