Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
At Build-A-Bear Workshop® you personally experience the joy of creating your very own teddy bear or other stuffed animal! You will find a wide range of furry friends to choose from with a vast assortment of outfits and accessories to match any personality! Make your own stuffed animal! Choose Me ~ Hear Me ~ Stuff Me ~ Stitch Me ~ Fluff Me ~ Name Me ~ Dress Me ~ Take Me Home! The perfect souvenier to take back home to that special someone!
Teddy bears are timeless toys that appeal to people of all ages. But would kids--and kids at heart--pay money to build their very own bear? Maxine Clark thought so.
Maxine Clark is a grown woman--but when it comes to business she's a kid heart. "My most successful times as a business person is when I could think like a kid just no holes barred," says Clark, "Just what would you do if you could do anything you wanted to do."
It's that philosophy that's helped her create one of the most popular and profitable retail chains around. "I think the main success of Build-A-Bear" is that it was created with the imagination of children in mind all along," adds Clark.
After 25 years with May Department stores, like Famous Barr and Payless ShoeSource, the Miami, Florida native decided it was time for a change. "One of my most fond things and most fond memories was going with my mother and my sister shopping downtown at Burdine's," says Clark, "Most of the time we never spent any money, because we couldn't afford it, but just looking in the windows was an experience."
She loved being in retail, loved being creative and wanted to bring out the child-like feeling she once felt while looking in store windows. Her inspiration came from a 10-year-old friend named Katie. "We were looking at beanie babies and she was mad that we would go in a store and they'd be sold out," said Clark, "And she said couldn't we make these?"
Katie thought of it as a craft project she could do in her friend's basement, Maxine saw it as a possibility. Today that possibility has a proven retail track record. "It's way bigger than I ever thought it was going to be, but the last few years, I think it's going to be around a billion dollar business in it's traditional sense," admits Clark.
But Build-A-Bear workshop isn't your traditional billion dollar business. The home office, located off Page Avenue, is full of teddy bears, babies and even a big furry dog named Milford. "It's not an act, it is who we are," says Clark, "It's the kind of environment I like to work in, casual not fussy, working here is who I am."
The company's won numerous awards for its business plan. There's a wall full of letters and pictures from happy customers showing off their favorite stuffed animals. The Cub Advisory Board is a group of kids who keep Clark, aka The Chief Executive Bear, up on the latest trends.
"Whenever you can get kids involved you can turn it into fun and it reminds you that what you're doing is of more significance than you realized," adds Clark.
Parents we talked with couldn't agree more. "Oh, this is so much different than going to the store and buying a stuffed animal," says Karen Owens, "The fact that they get to hold it over there, put all the love in and the heart, it really does, it just makes it yours."
Taylor Strange is just 3-years-old, but know what she likes. "I like coming here because I build a bear every time," says Taylor.
So whether you prefer puppies, bunnies or the traditional teddy bear--a trip to Build-A-Bear is all about pleasing the customer and giving them an experience and stuffed animal that's all their own.
"I think that's what people see when they come in here, they aren't conscious of it, but they see a little bit of themselves around and then they can put that together to put together their own bear," suggests Clark. "What could be better than that, nothing for me anyway, maybe for some people, but not for me its the most fun thing."
Build-A-Bear Workshop, Inc is two years ahead of its business plan and is expanding its ideas for merchandising all the time. There's the "Friends to be Made" dolls--where children can make their own dolls. Next month, they'll open the first Build-A-Bear in a major league ball park. The Phillies are hoping fans will want to make their own team mascot.