The Stuff-Your-Own Biz
Brown Bear Studio
to founder Eric Woods, The Basic Brown Bear Factory (BBBF) began
selling bears from their San Francisco factories "about a zillion
years ago." Actually, it was 1976, and the idea was born when
school groups toured BBBF's facilities. Eric and wife/business partner
Merilee encouraged kids to help stuff the bears, and the kids so
loved it that the Woods' eventually changed their business direction.
In 1985, Eric adapted their original apparatus, an old life-jacket
stuffing machine circa WWII, and established BBBF as a stuff-your-own-bear
business. They became known as "The place where bears are born."
builders can visit any of BBBF's four locations - three in California,
one in Minnesota's Mall of America. The highlight of the tour remains
choosing a bear from over 30 different designs, then stuffing it
on the fluffy stuffing machine.
also offers birthday parties, bear kits, custom-made bears, an award-winning
video, and an interactive website (basicbrownbear.com). Each year
over 65,000 children visit the Main Factory in San Francisco. Not
too bad for just your basic brown bear.
Red Bear Stuffer Machine
Business is Big Business
Janis and David Fenton of Fiber Products Northwest (FPN), the past
2-1/2 years have been "very, very busy." Their original
business venture, manufacturing textile machinery, has evolved into
a burgeoning worldwide enterprise: customized plush stuffing machines.
sell our models all over the US, and we're beginning to ship to
England too," says Janis.
with constantly ringing phones and business pouring in via their
website (thebearmill.com) the Fentons are committed to providing
personalized service and customized machines. "In fact,"
says Janis, "we can build any type of shell a customer wants
to fit their own unique design."
offers three models for varying needs: The Bear Mill, a lightweight,
portable machine used in kiosks and theme parks; The Bear Stuffer,
a "plain Jane" style that can be adapted to fit a theme;
and The Teddy Bear Express, their signature train version. The Fentons
make sure that portability, interactive appeal, and a unique blowing
system for uninterrupted stuffing--the elements that define success
in stuff-your-own--come standard on all FPN machines.
Levine, a mall cart plush vendor from Rhode Island and Massachusetts,
puts it this way: "People…see it, the fluff moving around
inside, and come over. We've had great success."
who says a bear market can't be a good thing?
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