Six boys, ages 7 to 11, sit in the coin-operated massage chairs outside The Lego Store at Concord Mills. The oversized dark leather chairs aren't turned on, but the boys' legs are jittering up and down anyway.
"He's been quivering with anticipation all week," said Curtis Hanson, who made the trip with son Graeme, 10, from Greenville, S.C.
It is just before 9 a.m. Saturday, and except for the distant rustlings of retailers preparing to open up shop, the mall is dark and deserted.
At 9 a.m., the large glass doors of The Lego Store will open, the boys will rush in, instinctively turn left into a brightly lit room, and the meeting of Lego Club No. 755 will commence.
Held semi-monthly for club members, each meeting gives kids ages 6 to 12 a chance to create a new project assigned by their Lego Leader.
Never has a group of elementary-age boys paid such close attention as when Kate Clardy, their leader, enters to give the morning's project.
She looks at each boy stoically, and then speaks. "Gentlemen, we have the ability to make an adventure scene," said Clardy.
They let go a collective cheer as she pulls fistfuls of miniature zombies, skeletons, snakes, and scorpions out of a large cardboard box.
The clock is now ticking. The project must be completed within an hour. Once the mall opens to the public, the meeting ends.
As they begin, club member Cameron Soden, 8, eyes me and my notepad, and asks, "Are you with Lego Club Magazine?"
"No, Cabarrus News," I say, trying to match the level of excitement I see in his eyes.
As if a wall of Lego bricks has just been built between us, I am politely shut out, no longer privy to certain club member information.
And I won't be able to thumb through a copy of Lego Club Magazine.
"It's a club member magazine," said Cameron, sounding apologetic. "Only club members get to know the codes." He gently recommends a Lego catalog for me instead, and goes back to assembling a pirate ship with a blinking treasure chest.
So what is it about clicking two bricks together that has remained so popular throughout the generations? With the kids concentrating on their multicolored pieces and tight schedule, I ask the parents instead.
"There's something about a boy and building stuff," said Sam Reyes, whose son Noah, 11, comes to the meetings from Fort Mill, the closest Lego store.
Although more popular with boys, girls have been known to play with them, too, like Angie Williams, who played with her brothers' sets growing up "when they weren't looking," she said. "It's good, clean fun," said Curtis Hanson. Some of his favorite childhood memories come from playing Legos with his brother. "We would make Lego demolition cars," he said. "Whoever's car came out the best, won."
"They're a good way to be creative," said Tonya Kelly, summing up why they are so well received by both kids and parents.
In fact, Legos only seem to be unpopular when it's time to vacuum.