We always keep an eye out for good teddy-bear tours. (That's just how we roll.) Over the past couple of months, we've been fortunate enough to come across two factory tours showcasing the manufacture of teddy bears and other stuffed animals.
In the small town of Chelsea, Michigan, you can tour the operations of Chelsea Teddy Bear Company & Toy Museum. Excitingly, here you get to hang out with no fewer than 100,000 teddy bears. While most may be boxed and ready for shipping, about that many teddy bears are typically living in the company's warehouse at any given moment. However, off-duty bears are not always idle. In July 2011, the company achieved a Guinness World Record by creating the largest ever teddy-bear mosaic: a giant circle of bears, arranged to show the panda symbol of the World Wildlife Fund. This achievement broke the prior record, which Chelsea Teddy Bear had also set with a similar feat involving a huge peace symbol of teddies. For photos of both events, see the company's Facebook page.
A world away, in Phoenix, Arizona, is the factory and retail store of the Stuffington Bear Company. While most plush toys in the United States are still imported, Stuffington is a glowing exception. Unusually in our age of technology and globalization, this small company makes its products almost entirely by hand from materials made solely in the U.S. Its handiwork includes not just teddy bears but an extensive zoological range: monkeys, elephants, camels, rabbits, coyotes, owls, eagles, penguins, frogs—even the horned toad lizards of the Arizona desert. On a tour of the manufacturing space, you observe the diligent, focused work of a 13-person team capable of cranking out 5,000 plush toys in just one week.
These tours will both be featured in the next edition of Watch It Made in the U.S.A. Meanwhile, you can read about other teddy-bear factory tours in the current edition of the book.
Posted By Karen Axelrod Sep 13, 2011