Billie Abbitt, the owner of Brickscape Cafe, recently approached a group of children who were playing with LEGO in his shop’s building table and asked them what kinds of sets they liked.
“One of them let me know that they didn’t have sets because they couldn’t afford them,” Abbitt explained. “After letting them know they could just come and play at the build table whenever they wanted, their faces lit up.”
That welcoming atmosphere extends to people of all ages and backgrounds, the owner said.
“I want Brickscape Cafe to be a community hub for Longmont and one of those places that people remember fondly throughout their lives,” he explained.
The toy shop, which opened in late March at 332 Main Street, is still in its early stages — Abbitt eventually aims to serve food and beverages, and offer classes and camps for children and adults. He also hopes to expand the space and offer an even wider selection of LEGO products and rentals.
But his current space is already drawing crowds — from teens who just want to have fun, to nostalgic adults, to children who are experiencing the magic of LEGO for the first time.
This is not Abbitt’s first business — when he was in his 20s, he opened a successful coffee shop, Common Grounds, in Gainesville, Florida. The shop became known as a community gathering spot.
“The people there were not just customers, they were friends,” he said. “I still have many of those friendships over a quarter century after leaving it and some of them still give me a hard time for moving on.”
But he did move on, and spent years working in the corporate realm, until hard times hit in 2022.
“Several physical and mental health issues that I'd been struggling with for years finally came to a head,” he said. “I went from a super high performer in my corporate job to struggling to send a basic email and just crying for days on end.”
Abbitt then discovered LEGO therapy — a creative outlet through building with brightly colored bricks.
“At first, there was a lot of guilt around it — a middle-aged professional playing with toys instead of doing something productive,” he explained. “But then I learned that I wasn’t the only one. Not even close. I kept meeting people who used play or crafts to improve their emotional well-being. As I looked into it more, I found or rediscovered so many ways that LEGO play helps support people in different areas: mental health, neurodiversity, education, creativity, corporate problem solving.”
Abbitt’s dream of helping connect people through a creative space began to take shape — he created the Brickscape Cafe online store in October 2022, and five months later, his brick-and-mortar shop opened.
Abbitt’s passion for welcoming people of all backgrounds comes from deep roots. He grew up in a multi-racial — Thai and Black — family, who were multi-religious — Buddhist and Christian.
Abbitt has also been through what he calls an “economic roller coaster” — he’s experienced both poverty and wealth in his life.
“I’ve met many different and beautiful people through these experiences,” he said.
And he hopes to keep meeting new people through his business. He said the Longmont community has been extremely supportive of his shop so far, and he hopes to gain feedback about his business as it grows.
“Community-building and cultivation is a process of feedback and iteration, knowing that what we co-create is possible,” he said.