Brick by Brick

Appears in the October 2023 issue.

Everything is awesome at Lego-centric Bricks & Minifigs

Inside Bricks & Minifigs

Lego heaven does exist, and you can find it just off Geneva Road and Main Street in Wheaton. Bricks & Minifigs (204 E. Geneva Rd.) is a buy-sell-trade store specializing in Lego and Lego only. “That’s it—we don’t do any other toys,” says store owner James Demer. “If you want [Lego] parts for something you’re building at home, we have that. If you want a new set, we have that. If you are looking for something from 30 or 40 years ago from when you were a kid, we have that.”

At the center of the store, massive bulk bins are filled to the brim with single bricks of all colors and types. Like at a salad bar, you can choose from different-size containers to fill with Lego pieces and pay a set price for anything you can nestle inside.

Woman and dog Lego minifigs

On shelves wrapping around the perimeter of the store, new-in-box sets stretch from floor to ceiling and are organized by theme, from Star Wars to Ninjago to Disney. There’s everything from palm-size animals and vehicles in polybags for $10 or less to sprawling city scenes and castles with price tags in the hundreds. Along the front of the store, cube-shaped glass cases display used sets, which are labeled with the disclaimer that, though they look quite complete to the untrained eye, they may be missing a few original pieces and are therefore priced accordingly.

A climber Lego minifig

Then, of course, there are the Lego minifigures, a.k.a. minifigs. At any given moment, the store stocks between 7,000 and 10,000 of them, all lined up in countertop display cases that zigzag from one side of the store to the other. Collecting minifigs is a more recent phenomenon, and Demer says he often finds himself explaining their appeal to parents in the store. “Back then [when I was a kid], Pirate Bob got reused 20 times and he wasn’t very rare, and everybody had him. Today, minifigs are much more exclusive to sets, and they also come in blind packs. They’re like a baseball card you can play with.”

Minifigs often correspond with a theme, such as The Mandalorian, The Simpsons, or Harry Potter. “Sometimes there is no theme other than they are cool,” Demer says. “For example, one of the latest series, Series 24, there’s no particular theme—you have a paper delivery boy, a falconer, a person dressed in a carrot suit.”

Bricks & Minifigs in Wheaton is part of a larger franchise founded in 2010 by two Lego collectors; it now has more than 40 stores in the United States and Canada. Demer grew up in West Chicago and loved playing with Lego as a kid, so when he was looking for a business to open after working in the freight and operations industry for years, he eventually decided it was the right fit. His Wheaton store is one of three Bricks & Minifigs locations in Illinois; the others are in Crest Hill and Glen Carbon (near St. Louis).

Inside Bricks & Minifigs

Demer spent a year building up his inventory—which included his own childhood collection—and opened in May 2018 in a former gas station in Wheaton. “The entire place had to be gutted. The nacho cheese machine was still here. The soda machine had to be taken out—and the horrors of syrup everywhere from doing that will never go away,” he says. Demer salvaged the gas station’s doughnut case, which now displays a 2021 Lego Home Alone set complete with the McAllister mansion, Wet Bandits minifigs, and Kevin’s treehouse.

You might assume Demer and his staff have discovered everything in the Lego universe by now, but the buy-sell-trade business continues to yield surprises. “Even after five years, we still see new things every day,” he says. “And you can’t judge a book by its cover. When you see a family come in, it’s not always the kid who is the Lego fan. Kids come in with a $10 allowance and a mission. Adults have magical things called credit cards, which get us in a lot of trouble,” he jokes.

Luke and Darth Vader Lego minifigs

Though Demer personally doesn’t collect Lego any longer—“That keeps me unbiased. It’s all business now, not my hobby,” he says—he did keep one minifig from his childhood collection. “The captain from one of my pirate ships sits on my desk and keeps me company at work,” he says. “He’s from a set called Skull’s Eye Schooner [released in 1993] and he has the ruffly shirt, beard, tricorn hat, and plume.”

Demer’s store doesn’t sell online; however, the staff posts photos of new stock every day on social media (@wheatonbam on Instagram and The store is worth a follow for its Daily Humor posts, which are comic-inspired snapshots of minifigs with remarks added in speech bubbles. “It’s the finest of Dad jokes and horrible puns,” Demer says.


Photos: Lisa Arnett (store); iStock (Minifigs)