Leggo my LEGO! Nope, that’s just the opposite of the philosophy shared at Music City Bricks, an indoor playground of sorts built on the booming popularity of those tiny LEGO bricks.
Located about halfway between Lebanon and Mt. Juliet just off Highway 109, the venture is the brainchild of Stosh and Melinda Morency and features 3,200 square feet of LEGO pieces that include over 3.4 million pieces sorted by individual parts and colors.
Here you will gaze upon a myriad of LEGO brick creations that range from a giant Mario and Star Wars storm trooper to spacecraft, castles, modular city buildings and big cars. But even better there are plastic tubs overflowing with colorful bricks inviting visitors to sit down at a table and craft their own LEGO creations. And LEGO lovers can buy or sell the plastic bricks.
The Morencys knew they had at least one thing in common when they were getting acquainted on the Yahoo dating site where each was asked what their favorite toy was. You guessed it. LEGO bricks. And, believe it or not, on their honeymoon they went to LEGOLAND in California.
“My wife is a veterinarian and I was an IT guy for 18 years. Neither of us had any retail experience. We were wanting someone else to open a store like this in our neighborhood. So two-and-a-half years ago at the Thanksgiving table we decided to do it,” recalled Stosh.
Melinda added, “We had been talking about it, and he had grumbled about it so much I told him, ‘You know what? You’re gonna have to open a store here.’ ”
For the next two years every night and weekend was spent sorting LEGO pieces as the couple was assisted by their children, Annmarie, 11, who will be a sixth-grader at Mt. Juliet Middle School, and Zeke, 10, a fifth-grader at Stoner Creek Elementary School. They opened quietly seven months ago and business has been growing steadily without advertising other than a banner outside the store and via a Facebook page and word of mouth.
“It’s been amazing how supportive people have been. There’s been a universal response. Nobody knows what to expect. Most are amazed at the quantity of LEGO pieces and minifigures. People spend hours at a time digging through bulk tubs for parts or just doing whatever suits their fancy or sparks their imagination,” said Stosh.
“There are no stereotypical customers. They range from three months old to 80 years old. There are plenty of 80-year-old kids out there. Six-to-12-year olds are definitely the hot-spot age range, but there are 22-to-32-year-old adults who have a job and retirees that are all LEGO enthusiasts. We have kids who come in and ping-pong ball all around, and we have the methodical studious ones who absorb every detail and work their way around.
“We didn’t want it to be just a store. We wanted it to be a place in the community where everyone in the neighborhood wants it and it is shaped by the people who come all the time.”
‘Feel of community’
On a recent Saturday, Emmanuel and Christina Berger of Lebanon brought in their youngsters, Nehemiah and Eden.
“My husband had been wanting to come for a while so we were glad to check it out,” said Christina.
“I started with LEGO bricks at 9 years old and somehow kept all my stuff,” said Emmanuel. “My son and daughter now build with them and I help out. The store is neat. I like it. Kids can come in and put hands on and we enjoy seeing other peoples’ creations. It’s not just a place trying to make money but has the feel of community.”
Murfreesboro’s Calvin Wright and his son, Preston, 13, visit the local LEGO land almost every weekend as Calvin likes to search for pieces to build police cars and fire trucks.
“Anything to do with public safety,” he said.
Preston said, “I like to build anything that comes to mind. Right now, I’m working on a castle that is about 70 percent finished.”
Stosh noted that the store has “a lot of regulars that have projects they’re working on. We get to see a lot of neat creativity right before our eyes. We want Music City Bricks to be a place that’s cool and fun. We have some families that come in twice a week.
“We did not open as result of an extreme personal collection. We pulled all this together. We buy LEGO bricks out of attics, and moms bring them in, and kids sell them to earn money for a car. Sales are mainly minifigures, and bulk LEGO pieces are our bread and butter,” he said.
“We have over 6,000 minifigures that can be purchased individually and hundreds of pounds of mixed LEGO pieces. We buy a hundred pounds almost every week. We have a party room for birthday parties and a playroom for children who are crawling or walking and later we hope to offer classes. We hope to have two train tracks eight feet up all around the wall with little trains and also to create a scene from the ‘Swiss Family Robinson’ movie.
“If you like what we’re doing, you can get a membership and help us out. Membership is a way for the community to partner with each other and cost $15 a month.”
Ben Coile of Mt. Juliet, a regular visitor to the store and a volunteer, said, “I’ve been a LEGO fan my whole life. I made the Mario and the storm trooper statues mostly from stuff all over the store. The store has been a nice way for me to get back into it and reconnect. The storm trooper took me 72 hours to build and has 6,467 pieces. Mario took 76-80 hours and weighs 24 pounds.”
The first bricks
Stosh received his first LEGO set when he was in the fifth grade. His said his sister got a set at the same time and later gave it to him. He still has both sets and all the pieces.
“When you only have one LEGO set, you don’t leave it lying around,” said Stosh, who grew up across the eastern United States and graduated from high school in McMinn County, south of Knoxville. He works in the store 60-80 hours a week. His wife, formerly Melinda Bates, grew up in Lebanon and graduated from Mt. Juliet High School in 1996 and is a vet at Lebanon Animal Hospital. She got into LEGO sets as a teenager.
Stosh shared that the LEGO brick known today was patented in 1958 and the first LEGO minifigure launched in 1978. A family business, LEGO is based in Billund, Denmark, with its U.S. headquarters in Enfield, Conn. There are three LEGOLAND theme parks in the U.S.: in San Diego, Calif.; Orlando, Fla., and the newest one is in Goshen, N.Y.
Meanwhile, Music City Bricks seems to be attracting LEGO devotees from across the country as Stosh ticks off the names of states from where visitors have followed the LEGO brick road to Lebanon: Alabama, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Virginia, Georgia, Florida, Hawaii, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
“We’re just off the beaten path enough that anyone who comes in comes in on purpose,” said the LEGO booster.