At just 11 years old, Eric Vasquez is doing what a lot of adults only dream about: owning their own business. As proprietor of Connect the Brick & More at 3901 N. 27th St. in Tacoma’s historic Proctor District, Eric deals in all things LEGO and other curious things, and after just five months in business his venture is proving to be a sound success.
“I used to go to BrickCon up in Seattle and I always loved their displays, and I wanted to open up a shop when I was bigger because I loved seeing all those displays and things,” Eric said. And that’s just what he did. As stated on the company website at www.ConnectTheBrick.com, “Our mission is to provide the community a one-stop shop for all things LEGO and other curious trinkets that both kids and adults may like! This can include collectibles, hard-to-find sets, rarities – all new or gently used.”
Eric buys, sells and trades LEGO sets and pieces, and he’s the perfect source for those looking for specific pieces or mini-figures that may be missing or lost.
“I love all the people that come here, all the kids – their faces, their expressions, Eric said. “They always come excited and sometimes they come to do trades or sell stuff and that’s really fun.”
With help from his supportive parents Antonio and Luisa, Eric has built a functional and attractive storefront, with 90 square feet of space to work with. His dad handles the website and Internet stuff, while his mom runs the shop when Eric is in school. Eric said they were excited to learn he wanted to open a store, as up to then he had been selling at sidewalk sales and the Proctor Farmers Market. “The community really responded well. I sold a lot. Then I decided one day that I wanted to open up a store.”
Noticing the vacant storefront in Proctor, Eric inquired about its availability and he learned that at least 10 other people also waned it for their business space. “One day the owner came to one of my sidewalk sales and said I could have it whenever I want as long as it was okay with my parents,” Eric recalled and Connect the Brick & More secured its new indoor home. He had saved enough money to open a shop by selling at markets, sidewalk sales, and doing business with family and friends, and these customers formed an instant customer base. Stories about Eric and Connect the Brick & More have been featured in local newspapers, on TV and radio, which has also helped attract new business.
Eric attributes his success to several things. In addition to having parents who believe in him, “I love doing what I love as a job,” he said. A LEGO collector since about the age of 2, he channeled his hobby into something he can share with others of the same interests, from kids to adults.
“A lot of people trade things or sell them…and teenagers will come because they don’t want tubs of LEGOs anymore. We find the instructions and put the set together, put all the accessories on them and we sell them.” Eric said he can help in locating pieces or mini-figures customers may be seeking. “We take their phone number and try to find it.” And for you parents out there with LEGOs to dispose of because your children are all grown up now, Eric encourages you to come and see him.
As such a young entrepreneur, this soon to be middle school student already had ideas for what he wants to be when he gets older. “I might want to be a LEGO designer, like design the sets and work for LEGO,” he said. For other kids his age, and people of all ages for that matter, Eric has this sage advice: “Definitely believe. Sometimes people dream their dreams but sometimes it’s good to live your dream.”
Hear more about Eric on the "It's Just Business Show" with my co-host Michael Harris and me on Thursday, Jan. 7, 3-4 p.m. on KLAY 1180 am.