How the Burke’s Book Store co-owner created the Lego version of the Memphis store

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Cheryl Mesler had a vision, and she brought it to life one Lego at a time.

It took at least 1,000 Lego pieces and more than a month of construction for Cheryl to create a miniature replica of her shop, Burke’s Book Store.

After about two steps through the front door of the Cooper-Young store, customers have a view of the wooden checkout counter where Cheryl’s masterpiece sits: a model store made of beige Lego bricks with mini cars parked on the side and a bicycle placed in front.

On closer examination of the sculpture, one can see inside the bustling shop full of shelves, cabinets, a ladder, typewriters, employees with coffees, telephones and customers regular – all in Lego, of course.

“The ultimate nerd project,” said Cheryl, 56, co-owner of the store at 936 Cooper St. “I’m very proud of it. Legos are just fun.”

In a monthly book magazine, Cheryl saw a Lego replica of the Strand Book Store in New York and decided to try her hand at building her own business with the building blocks.

From the Lego website to eBay, Cheryl scoured the internet for months beginning in July, looking for the perfect beige or navy-colored brick shelf to accurately recreate the Burke bookstore. By the time the parts arrived, she found building the store “pretty easy.”

“The most stressful part was trying to find the right pieces,” she said, adding that the transport from her home in Memphis to the store also rattled her nerves a bit. “It went better than I thought it would, to be honest, because I was ready at some point to give it up, like it wouldn’t work.”

The model includes some of the small details of the store, including the window stickers on the outside, the parking lot, the typewriters in each aisle, the tree in front of the building, and a ladder in the back.

Inside the four plastic walls, Lego employees based on real workers are scattered about doing their usual jobs. Cheryl can be found in the model holding a miniature camera taking a photo of a dog, which she does whenever a dog walks in.

Her husband, co-owner Corey Mesler, stands in the doorway of their office, while their daughter Chloe Mesler – with her blue hair – is in the back of the shop helping a customer. A regular customer stands outside the entrance with his hat.

“I could go crazy and do this scale thing, but it has to fit on the counter,” Cheryl said. “I love doing this, Legos are just a fun thing for me.”

Her obsession with Legos started as a child when she and her brother played with them and created random figures. As she got older, Cheryl enjoyed putting pieces together, and Corey encouraged her hobby. He bought her a Lego model of the White House and watched her meticulously put it together.

Cheryl would also join her grandchildren in building Lego models, with one even helping to add “finishing touches” to the store’s replica.

“When she first started talking about it, I was like it was impossible,” Corey said, recalling when Cheryl first told him about the store building. “I’m used to her being incredibly creative, but with that, I was like, ‘OK, she’s bitten off more than she can chew.'”

Months later, Corey, 67, saw his wife’s vision come to fruition.

“It’s amazing,” he said. “One thing she can do that I can’t do, because she’s a visual artist, is imagine it.”

Cheryl hopes her next project will be the Lego typewriter model, but with the price tag around $250, she doesn’t know when that will happen.

For now, Cheryl wants to cherish her Lego building. She said it will “live” in its protective cage in the bookstore as long as the Meslers own it.

But no one is allowed to touch it, she said.

Dima Amro covers the suburbs for The Commercial Appeal and can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @AmroDima.

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