By John Lauritsen

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It’s hard to find someone who didn’t play with Legos during their childhood. And some of us never stop.

From mini figures and micro tanks, to a 25-foot-long battleship, Brickmania makes it all out of Legos.

When he was 4 years old, Dan Siskind never imagined that a bunch of Lego parts and Lego men would ever become more than just a childhood pastime.

“It started with me going to stores after holidays and finding stuff on clearance, filling up my cart,” he said.

And by the time he was a teenager, Siskind realized he had a gift for designing his own Lego creations. With no blue prints to go by, he built military sets that the Danish company wouldn’t make and sold them on the Internet. The pieces went together like puzzles and the results were eye-opening.

“There is a battleship that’s 25 feet long, the USS Missouri, I did for a museum display. And it took a year to build,” Siskind said.

(credit: CBS)

Piece by piece, Lego brick by Lego brick, interest grew. People began asking for his self-made sets. And it got to the point where he had to move his business from his 100-square-foot basement to a 30,000-square-foot warehouse in Northeast Minneapolis. No longer on his own, he now has 50 employees that work for him.

“It’s my dream job,” design team manager Cody Osell said. “It’s nice to come to ‘work,’ and design what you love designing.”

He admits that he’s paid to play.

“I’m currently working on a World War II Navy dive bomber,” Osell said.

And nothing is computerized in the design stage. He just eyeballs a picture and goes to work.

“I beat my head against the wall all day, and then I realized there is a real simple solution for this,” Osell said.

It can take him up to a week to get a piece just right. Once he does, he enters what he did into a program that shows the production team the parts and colors that are needed to put it all together en masse.

“Demand is so high. We even print our own digital printing. Print on the figures. Print the digital instruction books,” Osell said.

The kits are then sold online or at their stores in Chicago, the Mall of America, and the store next to their production location.

There are tributes to wars and presidents, but also to Prince and First Avenue. In the middle of it all is that 25-foot battleship that took a half million pieces to put together. It’s all proof that success isn’t just born, it’s built — in some cases, one brick at a time.

“If you have passion for doing something, the sky is the limit. When people tell you, you can’t do it you don’t necessarily have to believe them. Because I’m proof and a lot of other people are proof that in spite of the naysayers, you can do what you want to do,” Siskind said.

During busy times of the year, Brickmania will make 2,500 Lego kits a week.

They will be opening a store in Washington D.C. soon and hope to eventually open one in Seattle, Washington too.

John Lauritsen