When John Masek and David Ortiz met, something clicked -- and it wasn’t just the Lego bricks they were both individually buying to resell online. The pair realized that the best way to sell the tactile toys was to join forces and set up a brick-and-mortar store where kids and parents could immerse themselves and let their imaginations -- and wallets -- run wild. In 2010, the duo created Bricks & Minifigs to buy, sell and trade Lego, opening two stores, one in Battle Ground, Wash., and one in Canby, Ore. A year later, they took the leap into franchising.
Masek, the company’s president and CEO, expects to have a total of 20 stores open by the end of the year, including expansion into Canada. We asked him to share his insights into how a business concept based on the appeal of brightly colored little plastic bricks turned into one of the year’s top new franchises.
Tons of places carry Lego, and the company even has its own stores. What makes Bricks & Minifigs special?
If you picture all the Lego products that have ever been made as an iceberg, the big-box stores carry only the tip of the iceberg -- the new sets. What makes us different is we carry everything below the water. We buy collections of all sizes from people, so we have cases full of used sets from a few years to a few decades old, thousands of minifigures, and “dump tables” full of pieces people can dig through to find what they need.
Sounds simple, but why franchise?
We knew we wanted this to be bigger than us, and we knew that if we grew through corporate stores alone, it could become a very sterile environment very quickly as we became more removed from our customers. Our stores are meant to be warm and inviting -- a welcoming place for all ages. And it’s much tougher to do that under a corporate umbrella than it is in a locally owned environment.
So far, every franchised store has done something to make our brand stronger. For example, it was our franchisees who turned us on to third-party vendors that make specialized accessories like weapons for minifigures.
How do you know you’ve found a potential franchisee that will add value to the brand?
A sense of family. We’ve turned away any number of people who have an incredible amount of money because they’re just looking for another investment -- that’s not what we’re looking for. We want somebody who says, “This is for me; this is for my family; this is so we have something that’s ours, that we can grow.”
What’s the best feedback you’ve received?
From a 6-year-old boy at the grand opening of our Louisville, Ky., store: “My life will never be the same.”