Four years ago, Caleb Raff was a busy, stressed-out salesman for a local plumbing supply company, trying to find both the time and the best way to connect with his then 9-year-old son, Daniel.
Stuck in a rut with a mid-life crisis on the horizon, Raff would come home late from work, tired. He'd see his son sitting there, "not doing anything." They had tried all kinds of sports -- Raff used to be an avid soccer player -- but nothing seemed to stick.
Raff then made a decision to simply spend more time with Daniel. What Raff had construed as idleness was actually creativity, he recalled.
The Brick Hutt
"Instead of pressuring him to do stuff, like sports, I asked him, 'What do you want to do?' " Raff said.
His son was really into art, drawing and, not surprisingly, Legos.
"I finally realized that and accepted him and said that's OK. I realized that being creative is OK. . . . We'll be creative together," said Raff.
The 40-year-old Cotati father and his son soon bonded over Legos. Their creative partnership has gone from simply playing with Legos to buying and selling them on a scale most Lego-preoccupied fathers and sons only dream of.
In a short period of time, they've gone from stockpiling Legos in their garage to preparing to open their largest Lego hobby shop yet in downtown Santa Rosa, at 420 Mendocino Ave.
Their current shop, The Brick Hutt, at 1220 Fourth St., lacks the glitz and international crowd of the Lego Store at Rockefeller Center. But in many ways, its cramped innards are far more impressive.
Raff and Daniel have amassed an impressive bounty of hard-to-find Lego sets, countless spare Lego parts and some 4,000 to 5,000 Lego miniature figures that leave most kids hyperventilating as soon as they walk into the shop.