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Building community brick by brick | News, Sports, Jobs

Eli Gosling collects Lego pieces to build a spaceship in a competition at Adirondack Brick in Saranac Lake on Tuesday.
(Enterprise photo — Aaron Cerbone)

SARANAC LAKE — Daniel Drake grew up building armies, cities and space stations. Now, he’s building a community of fellow Lego enthusiasts and a place for people of all ages to experiment with the stacking bricks creatively.

Inside his Broadway storefront, Adirondack Brick, Drake has thousands of bricks — some are for sale, others are for play.

On Tuesday, the sounds of seven pairs of tiny hands rustling through tubs of Lego pieces resonated throughout his “brick vault” — a group of youngsters were rummaging for parts in a competition to build the best spaceship. In the main room, Drake talked with the parents about ideas he has for events — STEM workshops, family build nights and competitions.

Drake said he gave up Legos when he got older, but picked them back up in adulthood. He likes to build sets to keep his hands busy as he winds down at night. He said the construction is a good way to handle anxiety and stress.

On Tuesday, highschoolers and first-graders competed, built and shopped side-by-side. Legos are for all ages, he said.

A group of children scavenge for spaceship parts as they compete to build the best Lego craft at Adirondack Brick in Saranac Lake on Tuesday.
(Enterprise photo — Aaron Cerbone)

“I knew people like Lego but I didn’t realize how many locals collected,” Drake said. “They have collections in houses that you’d never know about.”

But his main customer base, and the group he’s passionate about reaching, are children.

Conveniently, Adirondack Brick’s hours fit school hours because Drake teaches third grade at St. Bernard’s School. He said it’s cool to see his students playing in his store after a day in his class.

He uses an tub of loose Lego pieces and minifigures from his childhood collection in the classroom to teach his students everything from team-building to math.

When he gets home, his daughters — Abigail, 9, and Harper, 6 — are playing with Ninjago and Minecraft Legos, and his 8-month-old son is building with Duplos, the larger, infant-friendly version of Legos. His family is a bit “obsessed,” he said.

Grant Gosling looks through a tower of color-coded Lego drawers inside Adirondack Brick in Saranac Lake on Tuesday.
(Enterprise photo — Aaron Cerbone)

Drake has been contracting with Jayden Stevens, a local high schooler, to build the display sets he’s got decorating the shop — Ferris wheels, Star Wars spaceships and a fully functional crane. Stevens said his whole family are Lego enthusiasts. They spend evenings together working on the pieces.

Drake said he likes to keep busy and has always worked multiple jobs to support his family.

The storefront is a physical extension of an online store he started two years ago, selling parts and pieces through the Lego website marketplace BrickLink. This online store is the real money-maker, allowing Drake to pursue his goal of a hobby and crafting community built around Legos.

Drake, a self-described “extrovert,” said he loves meeting and building with people. He refers to his repeat customers as “friends.” The store’s slogan is “build together.”

“It was thrilling,” Drake said of opening his store. It happened a lot faster than he thought it would.

Amelia, left, and Silas Colarusso pull out Lego pieces inside Adirondack Brick in Saranac Lake on Tuesday as they compete to build the best spaceship.
(Enterprise photo — Aaron Cerbone)

The online business grew and his supplies started outgrowing the room in his house where he kept them. He needed them out and looked up some downtown real estate.

Now, Drake’s brick storage has outgrown the shop, too, and he plans to expand into the empty retail space next door to make more room for storage.

Drake said he won’t be able to compete with Walmart, but he can offer something they can’t — a community of fellow creative Lego fans.

To spend time in the brick vault, it costs $5 per hour, and memberships to Adirondack Brick are currently $40 per month.

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