Brick by brick: N.S. entrepreneur uses Lego to ease anxiety and rebuild his life

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WATCH: Local entrepreneur overcomes anxiety with LEGO. He now hopes to help others do the same.

Inside a little storefront on the end of a strip mall in Lower Sackville, N.S., is a Lego lover’s paradise.

Troy Keats opened Build-A-Block Retail & Parties a year and a half ago.

“My passion for Lego actually has more developed since I’ve opened the store than before,” said Keats.

He says the idea to open a store focused solely on the tiny building blocks was sparked two years ago when he was off on disability for an anxiety disorder.

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Keats says he was always stressed — he had a newborn daughter and was travelling a lot for work.

“I kind of had to take a step back and analyze my life and make a change,” said Keats.

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He says he noticed a need for his business in Nova Scotia, so he opened what he calls Halifax’s first exclusive Lego store. It’s a place where collectors can buy, sell and trade their pieces or sets, there’s a play area, and there’s also a space to host LEGO parties and special events.

Keats says not only did opening the store offer him a better work-life balance, but he realized that working with Lego was therapeutic, helping to ease his anxiety.

“I discovered something new for myself that actually helps with that anxiety relief and just better well-being in general,” he said.

A LEGO version of the Taj Mahal at Build-A-Block Retail & Parties
A LEGO version of the Taj Mahal at Build-A-Block Retail & Parties. Ashley Field/Global News

‘It’s given me purpose’

Richard Benson, 72, is also passionate about Lego. He spends much of his time at Keats’ store.

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“Lately, it’s been pretty well every day. I call it my home away from home,” he said.

Benson says he started playing with Lego after a difficult time in his life.

“After my wife passed away, and I retired shortly after that, there was a big void in my life, and I didn’t know what to do with myself. That caused me to go into a depression,” he said.

On a whim, he says he went to a store and bought a set of Lego and was “hooked right away.”

“I get lost in the building and the sorting of parts, and I find it’s very relaxing and soothing — and it’s given me some purpose as well.”

Lego figurines adorn the walls of Build-A-Block Retail & Parties in Lower Sackville, N.S.
Lego figurines adorn the walls of Build-A-Block Retail & Parties in Lower Sackville, N.S. Ashley Field/Global News

He’s one of a small, core group of volunteers that helps Keats sort pieces and assemble sets to put on display. He says he likes that there’s always something to do and it keeps his mind working.

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“It gets me up in the morning. I have other things — I’ve been looking into other clubs and that — but so far, this has been the main attraction, I guess you’d say.”

He’s not the only one who feels that way, according to Keats.

“It’s a very common comment that I get from customers. It’s a very relaxing hobby and I can relate to that, and I get that,” said Keats.

Lego pieces “into the six digits”

Keats estimates he has hundreds of thousands of individual Lego pieces in the store and hundreds of sets on display.

“That’s not to say what I have in storage,” he said.

“But on display, right now, there’s probably about 500 sets.”

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He also says there are a lot of Lego collectors in the area and many that come from all over the province.

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“There’s quite a few Lego enthusiasts around, and people that are usually into Lego, I’ve discovered, are into Lego,” said Keats.

“They have some quite impressive collections themselves.”

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He says while it started as a business venture, it has made him healthier and happier — something he hopes to continue to pass on to others.

“My passion is to help people and to help the community,” said Keats.

“At the end of the day, I can sit back and enjoy what I’ve put together. Being able to have my family come in and appreciate it as well, and being here, local, close to home, part of the community, I mean you can’t ask for much better than that as a turnaround, as far as a life change is concerned.”