It’s hip to be square at Blokhedz in Yellow Springs
By Natasha Habib
Kyle Peterson thinks there’s a different sense of accomplishment kids get from seeing what they’ve built with their own hands rather than hitting a “save” button on a video game.
“Nothing can substitute for hands-on play and action,” said Peterson.
There are stores catering to the virtual generation, where kids can pick up the latest video game, then go home and sit in one spot moving nothing but their thumbs for hours. Now, Peterson has opened a store, Blokhedz, where kids can pick up the latest Lego set, then go home and let their imaginations loose on the toys. They can construct their own towns, recreate a favorite movie scene, or explore their budding architectural interests designing miniature, plastic skyscrapers.
“Anybody can build with the bricks,” said Peterson. Though the store can be a trip down memory lane, according to Peterson, with vintage sets included, building bricks aren’t a toy of the past, though it’s true that Lego did seem to lose its popularity for a bit.
“They were really struggling with how to present the brand to kids,” Peterson said. “It was just getting tired.” He noted, however, that after that dip in sales around 2001 to 2005, the toys have made a comeback. It’s still cool to play the old-fashioned way.
“The Lego brand has seemed to explode,” said Peterson. “A lot of it has to go with the Lego company itself … they’re attracting more customers.” Seeing this, and wanting to give his own kids another place to go, Peterson opened Blokhedz in June on Dayton Street in Yellow Springs.
Blokhedz is more than a Lego store, however. In addition to competing brands such as KRE-O and Mega Bloks, you can find custom accessories and even Lego-themed candy and jewelry — yes, jewelry.
“Probably the main demographic is the 6- to 12-year-old boys,” said Peterson, but guys and girls of all ages can find something in the store. “Lego does make girl-friendly products, and we have sold some of them,” he said. The jewelry, though, made from recycled Lego parts by Rachel Peterson, Kyle’s wife, is one of the best-selling products in Blokhedz.
“They’re very charming, they really are,” said Peterson of his wife’s earrings. “Before they’re there 24 hours, they seem to disappear.” She’s not the only one who sees the potential for art in these construction toys.
“We just had a lady who was working on a mosaic for a contest,” said Peterson, noting that the artist wanted to “shake up the medium a little bit” with the building blocks. “To be honest with you, Lego is the ultimate art form,” he said. Using the plastic bricks in nontraditional ways in jewelry and mosaics is creative, but when you think of Lego art, visions of crazy-intricate displays constructed from the building blocks may more immediately come to mind. Glance through Blokhedz’ window as you walk by the front of the store, and you can see Peterson’s own Lego art displayed as well. He and one of his three part-time employees have built a Lego creation that originally started as a little main street display, but has grown into quite a scene.
“We thought it’d be pretty funny to do a little bit of a 2010 disaster/alien theme,” he said.
The creativity potential doesn’t stop at the blocks themselves, however. Custom accessories are also among the store’s best-selling products.
“You know those little mini people that come with the sets? There’s just a whole subculture that revolves around just the people,” said Peterson. A miniature blockheaded cowboy can be turned into a knight with a shield and sword.
In a month or so, Peterson hopes to help expand that creativity by offering workshops on how to use Lego in everything from mosaics to robotics.
“Being in the Lego community, I’ve made a lot of friends,” he said, and he hopes to someday have those friends come to help groups of kids learn three-dimensional building techniques and more. A collection of used Lego is already building through donations, and Peterson hopes to see it recycled into creations during those workshops or maybe even birthday parties, by appointment.
Peterson’s store does seem to be fulfilling a need for manually constructed creativity.
“We’ve had a very great response from the public,” he said. “We even got a lot of people up from Cincinnati or over in Columbus. One of them even said we’re better than the Lego store in Columbus.”
Blokhedz gets new product in every month or two, to keep imaginative hands entertained. Give a kid some building blocks and see what he might be inspired to create with his own two hands once he puts down the video console controller.
“People can only live in the virtual world for so long,” said Peterson.
Blokhedz is located at 136 Dayton St. in Yellow Springs and is open Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturdays 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Sundays 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. and closed Tuesdays and Thursdays. For more information visit www.blokhedz.us or call (937) 767-1300, or search for Blokhedz on Facebook.
Reach DCP editorial intern and freelance writer Natasha Habib at NatshaHabib@DaytonCityPaper.com.