Block party


POSTED: Monday, August 24, 2009

Maybe it's the modular thinking of those who have grown up playing with building bricks, but Hawaii's first Lego Store makes the most of every square inch.

In the shadow of construction of the massive Victoria's Secret store at Ala Moana Center, the Lego Store opened with little fanfare on July 23 and celebrated its grand opening last weekend.

Lego Store manager Skye Tonokawa said people were lined up in beach chairs at 5:30 a.m. Aug. 15 for the store's exclusive fish set, which was free with a $35 purchase. Though the sets went quickly, the store is still giving away informational sheets showing which pieces are needed and how to assemble your own fish.

But the quiet opening has not diminished the crowds. Signs of the economic downturn are nowhere to be found in the roughly 2,700-square-foot storefront (or about 32,400 square Lego bricks) consistently packed with kids and parents navigating the shelves of toys.

In spite of the thrall of fast-paced electronic toys, Tonokawa attributes Lego's enduring, multigenerational popularity to the creative nature of Lego.

“;It's not like a video game that gets old,”; Tonokawa said. “;You can keep crafting different things.”;

Tonokawa also said Lego is enduring because “;you can use Lego from 1958 when the bricks first came out and until now. They all interlock the same way. They all interlock together.”;

Elsa Lee brought her grandchildren, twin 6-year-old boys Kalei and Kala Chong, to the store for a treat.

“;They're making their selections. They're so excited,”; Lee said. “;This is their first visit to the store, so they're ecstatic.”;

Lee stood with her hands full of “;Star Wars”; Lego figures on key rings. “;It's interesting to see what they pick. I'd never think they'd go for the key chains, but there you go.”;

“;I want to come back here and get all this stuff,”; said Kala, gesturing at a wall of model sets.

The 'Iolani School first-grader ran his hands through a large tub of gray Lego squares and exclaimed “;Awesome!”; as the bricks cascaded through his fingers.

The store seamlessly intertwines play areas with embedded displays of completed Lego models — including a life-size surfboard constructed last week — and, of course, sales merchandise, ranging from the toddler-targeted Duplo blocks to the motorized Bionicles and giant movie-themed models.

Jakob Au, 9, was hoping his auntie would buy him a “;big 'Star Wars' set”; or increase his collection of bad guys. Looking around with wide eyes, he said, “;There's a lot of Legos.”;

For a creation that kids can keep, the store boasts a “;Build your own Minifigure”; area where keiki choose the hair or hat, face, body, legs and accessory of three Lego people, assemble them and pack them in a box for $9.99. For those with a project in mind, the “;Pick a Brick”; station lets shoppers fill cups of Lego from a wall of options — $14.99 for a large cup or $7.99 for a small cup.

The store will begin hosting birthday parties next month, and Tonokawa said they have already received more than 40 requests for September parties.





» Where: Ala Moana Center, 2nd level, between Robins and Victoria's Secret


» Store hours: 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays, and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sundays


» Call: 942-5346


» On the Net: http://www.LEGO.com


» Special: Until the end of September, shoppers receive a free child membership pass to Legoland, Calif., with any $75 purchase. The voucher must be redeemed by Nov. 1.


» Just for kids: The store hosts a Minibuild the first Tuesday each month, during which kids 6 to 12 can create and take home a small Lego model with the help of store experts. The event is free from 5 to 7 p.m., while supplies last. September's subject will be a notebook and pencil.