While his peers gravitated to baseball fields and basketball courts growing up, David Leschinsky stayed home and fidgeted with any puzzle he could get his hands on.
To Leschinsky, there are few activities more relaxing than completing a puzzle. He loved jigsaws so much that he left the tech industry 16 years ago to start Eureka Puzzles, a jigsaw store in Brookline, Mass.
When the novel coronavirus began consuming the U.S. in March, Leschinsky wanted others to have access to his go-to leisure activity during a time when many people were stuck in their homes. He distributed parts of a 40,320-piece puzzle to nearby residents, hoping to join the components when the health crisis subsided.
This jigsaw project was Eureka Puzzles’ way to build a small community and provide a fun activity for Massachusetts residents during the pandemic.
“Having that puzzle to work on,” said Malka Benjamin, one of the project’s participants, “I think is the reason I got through the shutdown in the mental form I’m in.”
The puzzle features 10 parts that each includes about 4,000 pieces. Each square features a photo from the Disney movies “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” “Peter Pan,” “Fantasia,” “The Jungle Book,” “Dumbo,” “The Little Mermaid,” “Bambi,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Cinderella” and “The Lion King.”
Near the beginning of 2019, Eureka Puzzles bought the jigsaw from Ravensburger, a German puzzlemaker, to add to its collection of more than 5,000 items. Until March, the largest jigsaw Eureka Puzzles owned sat on a top shelf in the small store.
When glancing at it one day in March, Leschinsky asked his employees about distributing parts of the $600 puzzle to customers free. They thought nobody would be interested.
Instead, when Leschinsky sent an e-mail to customers, he said more than 150 people replied. Leschinsky’s family took on a section, and he found nine other people near Brookline to whom he would send about 4,000 pieces of the puzzle. Participants picked up their puzzle pieces and a foam board at the store before it closed in late March.
Leschinsky created a social media hashtag, #EurekaTogetherApart, and asked contributors to share their progress on Instagram.
“There is so much animosity in the world,” said Leschinsky, 65. “In some ways that’s what this puzzle is; it’s bigger than any of the individuals or the households that did this.”
Like Leschinsky, Benjamin has loved puzzles since she was a child. Years later, she knew building puzzles was the best way to power through the pandemic.
Some of Benjamin’s friends felt antsy while prohibited from seeing friends or leaving their house.
“I never felt that way,” said Benjamin, 35, who works at the Plimoth Plantation museum in Plymouth, Mass. “It was almost like a gift of time to be able to work on the puzzle.”
Massachusetts stores were allowed to reopen in June. Eureka Puzzles employees picked up the sections and glued them together in their basement, creating a 22.5-foot long puzzle. The store put it on display at a gallery next door Sept. 23 with all of the puzzle builders in attendance for the revealing.
A few months ago, Ravensburger sent another 40,000-piece jigsaw to Eureka Puzzles — this one featuring Mickey Mouse photos through the decades. Leschinsky plans to distribute its sections soon — hoping it’ll help another 10 people escape troubles.