Many of us construct a fantasy world to escape into while we’re pursuing our own mundane careers; but most of us do that virtually, inside our heads. Shawn Clark, who recently stepped down after 27 years as employment manager at Mohonk Mountain House, built his more literally: with LEGO® bricks. “I have a LEGO® room in my house,” he admits. “I’ve been into LEGO® since I was four.”
So, when he hit his late 40s and his three daughters had all grown up and moved out on their own, Clark was able to give his favorite hobby free rein. And now that he has retired, he’s making it his second career. After about five years of planning, this Saturday he will be opening a new business called Brick House Resellers in the Bridgeview Plaza on Route 9W in Highland, where you can buy, sell and trade all things LEGO®. “I’ve always believed in ‘Love what you do, do what you love,’” says Clark.
Wedged between two restaurants, Pizza Mia and Main Moon, the 1,500-square-foot space – a former Cricket Wireless store – was still undergoing renovation and organization when Hudson Valley One paid a visit. But the initial impression was already, “Wow, this place is amazing!” (Or awesome, as they say in the LEGO® movies.)
Right up front, and visible from the big shop windows once the butcher paper covering them is taken down, is an enormous table display assembled by Clark himself over the years – a veritable city of customized LEGO® buildings and their inhabitants. Only a few of the structures are from prepackaged kits; they’re mostly what LEGO® hobbyists call MOCs (My Own Creations). “It’s full of little Easter eggs,” he says proudly, pointing out a flock of chickens crossing the road and a church whose parishioners are revealed to be all bananas when he lifts off the lid.
Store customers won’t be invited to mess with his cityscape, but right across from it are play tables where kids can assemble their own figures, vehicles and buildings, in both LEGO® and DUPLO® scale. Next comes a big display bin heaped with assorted bricks and related paraphernalia of every imaginable description. You’ll be able to purchase them in bulk, filling a plastic bag or Chinese restaurant soup container with your choice of pieces to complete whatever project you’re working on. There’s also a “build a mini-figure table” organized into five sections, where you can select a hat, head, torso, legs and accessory, put them together and take them home for a flat fee.
Around the perimeter of the shop are glass cases full of premade mini-figures grouped by franchise (Ninjago, Star Wars, Avengers, Lord of the Rings and so on), with prices ranging from $5 to $40, as well as preassembled scenes. There are shelves and wall displays tempting the hobbyist with never-opened new LEGO® sets – many of them rare, discontinued models – priced from $10 to $300, as well as gently used “certified sets,” meaning that they’ve been opened but have all the original pieces and instructions and are sold in the original box. Also available are “uncertified” used sets, with no box or instructions, and perhaps some substitutions for missing pieces.
Clark says that he “never threw anything away” since he began playing with LEGO® as a small child, but many collectors like to sell old sets, figures and random pieces or trade them for newer additions. There’s a big trading network online, and “LEGO® really does have a high resale value,” he avers. There’s even a popular TV game show, now heading into its third season, called LEGO Masters. And of course, the Legoland New York theme park that opened last year in Goshen is less than an hour’s drive away. But the nearest new LEGO® emporiums are in Palisades and Danbury, and “The closest LEGO® reseller is in the middle of Connecticut,” according to Clark. Interest in the new Highland store has been high on social media, and he’s confident that the market is hungry for what Brick House Resellers will have to offer. Apparently, if you let them build it, they will come.
While kids can’t be left in the shop unsupervised, Clark thinks that the proximity of a busy supermarket a few doors down will create an opportunity for a “reward system” in which frazzled parents can tell their children, “Behave at Hannaford and we can go down to the LEGO® store afterwards and you can build a mini-figure.” It doesn’t hurt that there’s a pizzeria next door, either – nor that the shop is positioned exactly at the point where lines of cars must wait for the McDonald’s drive-through lane.
As if the buy/sell/trade business model weren’t enough, Brick House Resellers also has a Party Room that can accommodate up to 15 kids aged 5 to 12. Clark’s wife, Tanya Yuro-Clark, will be responsible for hosting both private parties and STEAM activity classes. A 90-minute party for 12 children will cost $180, plus $15 for each additional child and $5 each for tubs of assorted bricks in lieu of goodie bags. You supply your own refreshments; the Clarks conduct the activities, which vary by the child’s age and interests, but might include memory games, LEGO® bingo, a scavenger hunt, an escape room, building a tower or making a bracelet – all using LEGO® components. As a Special Ed teacher, Yuro-Clark has the requisite skillset and experience to keep kids engaged and contented – even those with special needs.
With COVID-19 winding down, the time seems right for kids to be gathering again in person, and the Clarks already have a couple of parties booked. They’re conscious of the health requirements of such hands-on activities as play with building bricks, so they have rigorous cleaning protocols in place. Going barefoot in the store is a no-no, for obvious reasons. The Party Room has a great big window in front and two security cameras inside for the children’s protection. If your kid has a birthday coming up in the next few months, you might want to reserve your date quickly at (845) 901-2541 or https://brickhouseresellers.com.
But you don’t need to have a kid or even be one to have fun at Brick House Resellers. “They advertise that LEGO® is for ‘ages 5 to 99,’ and it’s the truth,” says Shawn Clark. “This is my dream job; I get to play all day.” Check the place out from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, beginning March 26. It’s located at 3650 Route 9W, Suite F, in Highland.