The Shiloh storefront for Bricks 4 Kidz may be closing it's doors in the coming weeks, but that doesn't mean goodbye for good.
"I'm very sad about it all and I wish we could stay," said Diane Fefferman, who operates the franchise at 2241 Country Rd.
She explained Bricks 4 Kidz is all about providing kids with the resources to cultivate their interests and skills in STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — using Lego blocks in different settings like private birthday parties, workshop events, after school programs and summer camps.
"But we don't have enough birthday parties and weekend workshops to get enough use out of the office space to justify paying the rent expense, so we will go back to being a mobile, home-based business again," Fefferman said.
In 2014, Fefferman purchased the franchise with high hopes of pursuing her passion of working with kids ages 5 to 13 in a fun environment.
"We were home-based in our first year and rented a basement office space in Belleville our second year until moving to our Shiloh location that we've been at for almost two years now," Fefferman said.
Prior to opening Bricks 4 Kidz, Fefferman worked 18 years as a St. Louis Arch park ranger, but her and her husband Rich wanted a more hands-on, family-friendly business to keep them busy. Their 14, 11 and 10-year-old kids help out too.
"Even though we are in the process of moving things out of the Shiloh shop and selling items like tables, chairs and Lego curtains, we are staying positive and moving forward," Fefferman said.
Despite the new change, she's not giving up on what she loves.
"Honestly, I am going to stick with this because it’s working with the kids that means so much to me, and they have so much enjoyment in doing these programs, and I think the STEM movement is so vital to success and the fact that I can get the skills to these kids and help them grasp the concepts means the world to me," Fefferman said.
She keeps the ball rolling by adding new programs and extra summer camp sessions.
"Each year we’ve grown and we add new things in to change things up because we do have regulars," Fefferman said.
New programs include workshops and summer camp sessions in video gaming, coding and movie making, which Fefferman said the Bricks 4 Kidz corporate company helps keep her skills and knowledge fresh.
"Our corporate office provides us with new curriculum and we work through it, as well as with the new teaching guides too, so we are currently learning the new resources now," Fefferman said. "Kids need as much exposure to STEM as possible, and we provide that with working with Lego models and robotics."
The O'Fallon Parks and Recreation department has partnered with Fefferman to offer Kidz Night Out events at the Katy Cavins Community Center in O'Fallon.
"It gives parents a chance to have a date night where their children are in a safe environment and the parents can relax knowing their kids are fed and having fun playing and building something," Fefferman said.
Goals to grow
Fefferman's goal to grow her metro-east franchise doesn't stop with just adding new curriculum — she wants to get into schools more too.
"I’d like to grow the business by offering more after school programs to more schools because I know teachers and schools are always looking for interesting and creative ways to challenge students in and out of the classroom," Fefferman said.
Bricks 4 Kidz hosts after-schools programs that run one-hour, once a week for a period of six weeks, according to Fefferman.
"We like to get in front of those littler kids by introducing new concepts to them," Fefferman said.
Bricks 4 Kidz summer camp sessions run from June 4 through Aug. 10 at varying locations ranging from Belleville's Southwestern Illinois Community College and Godfrey's Lewis & Clark College to Hope Christian Church in Columbia, We Rock the Spectrum in Edwardsville and the Belleville Jaycees Hall.
"Our summer camps have been so well received that we've added extra weeks and new locations too; we are really excited," Fefferman said.
Some summer session registration locations are open currently through www.bricks4kidz.com/stl-metroeast, but the College For Kids sessions held at SWIC and LCC will open March 1 through the college websites.