Looking for the perfect teddy bear? Go stuff it

Some folks are feeling stuffed after the holidays, but not these little creatures.

At the Teddy Bear Factory, which recently opened in Kitsap Mall, customers can choose from 15 unstuffed plush animals — bears, farm animals and even frogs — then stuff the critters themselves at one of the store’s three workstations.

A red, cloth heart is sewn inside, and the creator can chose a name to be printed on a birth certificate. The animals are made so they can be easily laced like a corset after stuffing.

“(The stuffing) does make a difference because they can make a firmer or softer bear,” said Jeff Dickinson of Woodinville, who recently opened the store with his wife, Robin.

The store has an ample supply of clothing to outfit the animals after they are stuffed, including sports gear, police and fireman outfits, dresses and cowboy costumes.

Jeff said he had seen similar stores in malls across the country and liked the idea, but the huge stores where they are housed weren’t realistic for the Kitsap market.

“During my travels I came across (the) concept in large retail spaces, and I thought it would be interesting to miniaturize the concept for a smaller market,” said Jeff Dickinson, who also owns kiosks which sell sunglasses, fleece hats and microwavable bags of aromatherapy herbs.

“Kitsap has always been our best mall, and the community has embraced our concepts in the past. That’s why we decided to start there,” he said.

The store opened Dec. 8 and has sold more than 550 bears. Jeff hopes to find a niche with children’s birthday parties, and eventually be able to send employees off site so children can stuff bears at parties in their homes, skating rinks or pizza parlors.

Until then, the store relies on mall traffic to lure stuffed animal lovers inside.

Sheila Silva and Michelle Ostaszewski, two of the store’s three employees, said the shop is patronized by couples, moms and their children, pre-teens and men who make bears for their wives or girlfriends.

“But mostly it is little girls that come in,” Ostaszewski said.

Customers, especially children, get the satisfaction of a hands-on project they can take home. Each workstation is equipped with a stool for children to stand on and wooden tools to help pack stuffing into the animals’ arms and legs.

“They get the enjoyment that they did something, they made something,” said Denise Kremer, whose 8-year-old daughter Shawnee Jorge stuffed a royal-blue teddy bear.

The animals cost $20 with tax, and costumes range from $2.50 for a simple shirt or pair of shorts to $12 for more elaborate garb.

The Dickinsons employ six home-based seamsters to sew specialized clothing for the bears.

“One of the biggest challenges we’ve had has been to find military uniforms. We probably get a half-dozen requests a day for sailor outfits,” Jeff Dickinson said. He added that the seamsters are in the process of creating the uniforms and other hard-to-find designs.

The Dickinsons hope to expand the store to other area malls, but they have not yet decided where, Jeff said.

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus

Read the Sep 23
Green Edition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Browse the archives.

Friends to Follow

View All Updates