A new store showcases a tiny piece of man's massive, million-dollar Lego collection

·7 min read

Just inside the door of It's a Block Party's recently opened Southport Road storefront, 10,000 small yellow faces wait to greet you.

They are smiling, grimacing or masked. Some are attached to heavily armed bodies, while others wear princess dresses.

All are surrounded by spaceships, race cars, houses and countless other objects made from the same materials and limited only by imagination.

The store is the main commercial arm of Indy resident Doug Davis' lifelong Lego collection -- some 5,000 square feet of floor-to-ceiling bricks, all of the small variety. It recently moved from a smaller location on Madison Avenue, where Davis opened some nine years ago.

Various Lego minifigures sit for sale Monday, Nov. 29, 2021, inside It's A Block Party in Indianapolis. The store specializes in Lego products, selling sets and individual pieces by the cup or pound. They also purchase Lego sets.
Various Lego minifigures sit for sale Monday, Nov. 29, 2021, inside It's A Block Party in Indianapolis. The store specializes in Lego products, selling sets and individual pieces by the cup or pound. They also purchase Lego sets.

"I've always been addicted to Lego, even from when I was 3 or 4 years old," said Davis as he held court in front of the 10,000 minifigures -- the little Lego people -- assembled in display cases at the front of his store. "My dad always shopped at garage sales and flea markets and brought me tons of Lego stuff."

His parents supported his Lego building, save for one incident:

"When I was about 8 years old, I built an 8-foot by 8-foot spaceship on the hood of our station wagon. When my dad wanted to leave, that was kind of a problem."

Various Lego minifigures sit for sale Monday, Nov. 29, 2021, inside It's A Block Party in Indianapolis. The store specializes in Lego products, selling sets and individual pieces by the cup or pound. They also purchase Lego sets.
Various Lego minifigures sit for sale Monday, Nov. 29, 2021, inside It's A Block Party in Indianapolis. The store specializes in Lego products, selling sets and individual pieces by the cup or pound. They also purchase Lego sets.

As he grew older, Davis, now 51, absorbed his siblings' Lego kits and spent much of his own spare cash made from selling real estate on growing his collection, which he estimates at being worth more than $1 million. Even though the store holds only a small fraction of this trove, the result is a still a fairly comprehensive inventory of all things Lego.

If Davis doesn't have it, he's probably looking to buy it. Whether he would be willing to then sell it you? That's more complicated.

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It's a Block Party

The store, located across from Long's Bakery and within 10 minutes of Davis' childhood home, is lined by racks of various consumer-friendly Lego kits. The back wall is almost entirely "Star Wars" -- both a personal favorite of Davis', and his top-selling Lego fandom.

It's A Block Party's new store, located at the corner of Main Street and Southport Road, Monday, Nov. 29, 2021.
It's A Block Party's new store, located at the corner of Main Street and Southport Road, Monday, Nov. 29, 2021.

A separate room to one side will soon be set up for hosting birthday parties, which will include a build-your-own Lego race car kit and track, a wall for building Lego mosaic art, sections for the popular Ninjago and Chima offshoot kits and more.

In front of the birthday room lies Davis' own personal design space, which he will update each month.

For the store's first month, it's a recreation of the Battle of Geonosis from "Star Wars: Attack of the Clones," the centerpiece of which is a droid factory with working conveyor belts and lights.

This is just a small section of the much larger build he unveils during Lego conventions. The full build is 20 feet by 8 feet, complete with 1,000 clone trooper and 1,000 battle droid minifigures and a mountain that stretches higher than a normal store ceiling will allow.

Buying in bulk

In the store's center, customers can build their own minifigure from thousands of pieces, or buy spare bricks in bulk.

Various Lego parts, pieces and sets sit ready to sell Monday, Nov. 29, 2021, inside It's A Block Party on Southport Road.
Various Lego parts, pieces and sets sit ready to sell Monday, Nov. 29, 2021, inside It's A Block Party on Southport Road.

"They can buy it by the cup. We sell it by the pound. They can get it by the a truckload if they want," Davis said.

He is, it must be thoroughly stressed, not exaggerating in any way.

Though his store is packed to the brim with hundreds of boxes containing hundreds of thousands of individual Lego pieces, it is only a tiny fraction of his inventory.

Doug Davis stands amongst just a small portion of Legos on Monday, Nov. 29, 2021, inside his new store, It's A Block Party, on Southport Road.
Doug Davis stands amongst just a small portion of Legos on Monday, Nov. 29, 2021, inside his new store, It's A Block Party, on Southport Road.

He has kits tucked all around the city. His house, particularly his basement, could well serve as a Lego museum. His rarest and best pieces are kept in a vault.

In all, his collection -- not including thousands of kits and hundreds of pounds of bulk bricks and minifigures included in his store's inventory and a trailer he takes to vend at conventions -- is well over 25,000 kits.

Lego economics

The store also buys and trades in Lego, and Davis is active on eBay and, soon, his own online shop.

"There's not a day that goes by that I don't buy something Lego," he says. "In the store, online, people call me or send me an email -- I say ship it to me, I'm an equal opportunity hoarder."

The dollars and cents at play may be mindblowing to all but the most seasoned collector/retailer.

Davis' girlfriend, Melissa Peterson, works a day job in insurance and co-owns the store. He remembers her shock the first time she thought he was spending $1,250 in one sitting on "toys."

It was actually $12,500. Pesky decimal points.

"Now, she'll see me drop $50,000 or $60,000 without batting an eye, because she knows what I can do with them," Davis said.

Davis is known to clean out department stores, garage sales or fellow collectors in a single outing. Peterson has often asked why he feels the need to buy every kit, rather than just a few.

Doug Davis, owner of It's A Block Party, shows off a McDonald's set Monday, Nov. 29, 2021, inside his new Southport Road store. Davis' first job was at McDonald's, where he quickly grew to store manager by age 18. "I was the youngest manager in the state of Indiana," he said.
Doug Davis, owner of It's A Block Party, shows off a McDonald's set Monday, Nov. 29, 2021, inside his new Southport Road store. Davis' first job was at McDonald's, where he quickly grew to store manager by age 18. "I was the youngest manager in the state of Indiana," he said.

"If I see something I can make 10 bucks on, I don't want one. I want them all," Davis said. "She says why don't you just buy six? If I can sell (a kit) now and make 20 bucks, I want 500. I don't want six."

Davis recently sold twice the inventory he was expecting to at a convention in Raleigh. He then went shopping every day on his way down to Florida, where, as he was emptying out a Lego store, a fellow collector stopped by.

"He goes are you still buying? Of course I'm still buying," Davis said, showing some indignance at such a silly question. "Long story short, I'm going to his house 45 minutes away... and I ended up financing his daughter's entire wedding. He kept adding stuff until it got to 15 grand, because that's how much he needed for the wedding."

The COVID-19 pandemic has slowed sales a bit, but Davis is still hoping to reach about $500,000 in annual sales going forward.

Collecting and family

Despite sizeable bulk stores, Davis specializes in rare collector's kits.

He pointed out a 3,104-piece Imperial Star Destroyer kit, of "Star Wars" fame. Its retail cost in 2002 was $300. Now? $2,500.

Such a hobby/obsession/side hustle necessitates Lego being a family affair for Davis. His 25-year-old son, Jacob, has his own job and life but still helps out a bit with the displays. His daughter, Alyssa, 20, works at the store to help pay for her college tuition at Ivy Tech.

When asked if they'll take over the family Lego hoard, as much of it is likely to outlast its owner, Davis said the conversation played out recently when a friend asked Jacob what he'll do when Davis dies.

"He said, without missing a single second, it'll all be on eBay within a half-hour," Davis said. "And I'm like, are you serious? I will come back and haunt you."

Davis hopes to sell every brick he's got, of course, but the countless personal hours and dollars invested into his collection give the store more meaning.

He gets personal satisfaction when his clients, mostly children but sometimes adults as old as 70, feel a sense of accomplishment or artistic success when completing the kits he sold them or building their own designs.

"I like it when kids come in the next time and they go hey, look what I did, and show me a picture," Davis said.

He hopes the monthly displays will further stimulate the kids' creativity.

"They're going to get excited, and they're going to get inspired," Davis said. "And then they're going to hopefully come back and (say) hey, I need this piece, and two of these and one of those, and I'm going to go yeah, right, here they are. Go build it."

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Rory Appleton is the pop culture reporter at IndyStar. Contact him at 317-552-9044 and rappleton@indystar.com, or follow him on Twitter at @RoryDoesPhonics.

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: It's a Block Party showcases part of Doug Davis' huge Lego collection