LEGO fans building excitement for new Utah store
When 34-year-old Steve Poulsen first walked into the new LEGO Store at the Murray Fashion Place Mall, he was enveloped in a heavenly yellowish glow of plastic bricks and pieces that only he can describe.
"It's very much like a kid in a candy store, but it's better it's an adult in a LEGO Store," said the West Jordan satellite engineer and LEGO hobbyist.
Utah's first official LEGO retail store opened at the suburban mall Sept. 20, and many a kid and kid-at-heart are basking in its presence. The store, which is located on the north side of the concourse between H&M and Macy's (and, gulp, just a couple doors from Victoria's Secret), will have its official grand opening Friday, Saturday and Sunday with a series of events and giveaways.
"It's a beautiful thing," Poulsen said about the new store. "I've been there six times, and I'm working on trip No. 7 tonight."
The Murray store is the 78th Lego retail outlet to open in the U.S., according to Amanda Santoro, brand relations manager for LEGO, whose U.S. headquarters is based in Enfield, Conn. The parent company, the LEGO Group, is in Billund, Denmark.
The 2,000 square-foot yellow-tinted store sells hundreds of LEGO sets based on more than 20 brands and themes, including "Lego Friends," "Teenage Mutant Turtles," "LEGO City" and "LEGO Technic," a brand for older kids that includes robotics. Exclusive to LEGO stores is a "Build Your Own MiniFigure" kiosk in which you can create LEGO people by mixing and matching hundreds of different parts.
"This is our first store in Utah, and we're always looking at new markets," she said about why Utah finally got its first outlet. "We ask if there is a high affinity for the brand in the market. We look for malls that fit our business model and somewhere where it fills that LEGO need for fans in the area."
The company began when Danish carpenter Ole Kirk Christiansen created the first wood blocks in the 1930s that he would later call LEGOs (LEGO derives from the Danish word for "play well").
The company's building bricks eventually turned into plastic in the 1950s and have been a staple in children's toy boxes for decades. The company then broke out into other forms of entertainment by partnering with and acquiring valuable licenses such as "Star Wars," "The Lord of the Rings" and "Pirates of the Caribbean" and co-creating video games based on those licenses. But the six-by-two multi-colored plastic brick remains the core of the company's empire.
"It's very classic and timeless," Santoro said of the toys. "The landscape for toys has changed over the years, but LEGOs are still the same product they've always been for 50 years. Everyone can use a LEGO brick in a different way and express themselves in a different way."
Today, the Christiansen family still owns the privately held company, which now boasts 10,000 employees and is the third-largest manufacturer of play materials in the world.
During the weekend, the store will hold exclusive in-store offers, free LEGO giveaways, raffles, and a company "master builder" will be constructing a large LEGO statue of the Incredible Hulk superhero on the west end of the mall. The statute is temporary and will eventually be torn down for the next LEGO store opening.
Cody Ottley, president of the Utah LEGO Users Group, a club of 110 local LEGO enthusiasts, has waited more than 10 years for a LEGO store to come to Utah. And now that one has, he's already visited it twice since the store's "soft opening" two weeks ago and will drop by a third time this weekend even though he lives in Spanish Fork. He said it's easier to come into a store to buy the pieces he needs then buy them online and pay extra for shipping and wait for them to arrive at his home.
"This is epic. We've been waiting for this forever," he said about why he and his fellow hobbyists are excited about the new store. "It changed all of our lives for the better."
LEGO Store grand opening
Where • Fashion Place Mall, 6191 S. State St.
When • Friday, Saturday and Sunday. There will be prize giveaways and special offers. A master builder is constructing a giant LEGO statue of the Incredible Hulk all three days.
Store hours • Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sunday noon to 6 p.m.