Block sells stuffing machines and bear supplies from his California-based
Teddy Bear Stuffers. Business is so hot, he says, I am literally
unable to keep up with demand.
McLean, who sells the train- and house-styled stuffers, says tremendous
markets still exist for the make-your-own-bear concept. Both talk
of customers or vendors (they arent franchisees)
who have grossed over $100,000 in sales last November and December
bear vendor who McLean supplies (who wishes to not be named for
competitive reasons), will probably make $600,000 stuffing and selling
bears at various universities this year. McLean routinely airfreights
thousands of shirts to the vendors silkscreener, who prepares
them for the next college on the travel itinerary.
Block, McLean says, We cant keep product in for this
Stuffing It Yourself
1985, Merrilee Woods of the Basic Brown Bear Co. in San Francisco
noticed what a draw the stuffing process was, and stumbled
on the stuff-it-yourself idea. Theyve set
up mini-factories in a few other locations, including the Mall of
America, and the original San Francisco location entertains 65,000
visiting children a year.
Bear is another major player in the stuff it yourself
enterprise, and many Americans are already familiar with their inline
mall stores. A company representative says 2002 will see over 100
Build-A-Bear stores open in malls and resort locations. Founded
in 1997 by Maxine Clark, a former president of Payless Shoe Source,
Build-A-Bear got the jump on mall-based bear stuffing, and highly
promotes its locations for birthday parties and other childrens
McLean caught wind of the concept while on vacation in Mackinaw
City Michigan, also about five years ago, after hed retired
as CEO and president of the Panama Jack Suncare Company. He kyboshed
the notion of establishing a chain of stores at the time, but re-approached
stuff-your-own idea in May of last year. This time he decided that
helping others establish stores and amusement park booths was the
way to go.
his engineering background to use, McLean worked with Fiber Products
Northwest to design the fun-looking train motif stuffers. He established
about 60 vendor accounts his first year, but the weight of the train
design-430 pounds-made portability a concern to potential new vendors.
Bear Factory's Train Stuffer
machines have been around for about 50 years, according to McLean,
and the current design originated out of a device that filled pillows.
The problem he faced was the compressor; bulky and heavy, it would
have to go.
After a trip back to the drawing board the Bear House was built.
At 212 pounds its much easier to lug, making it the latest
thing in the stuffing business.
the Market Will Bear
are we on the make-it-yourself curve, and when will this bear bubble
Retailer tells his story: Click