My grandmother loved teddy bears and was quite a collector. One Christmas, I purchased her a Vermont Teddy Bear. At the time, the bear was very expensive, but I knew she didn’t have one of these in her collection, and she loved it! Ever since that purchase, I have wanted to tour the factory.
We arrived early in the morning, forked over our $3 each and were given a small yellow button to wear. We walked around the gift shop falling in love with every teddy bear we passed. I had forgotten about all the accessories and clothes that could be purchased to dress your teddy bear just the way you like; from simple bows and overalls, to occupational wear like policeman, firefighter or nurse and even wedding dresses/tuxedos and more.
The yellow tour was finally called to the large wooden doors that gave access to the factory floor.
Our tour guide, Lynna, (La-NAYE), started off the tour by giving us some history of the Vermont Teddy Bear. In 1981 after noticing that every teddy bear his son Graham owned was made in a foreign country, John Sortino decided someone should develop a teddy bear made entirely in America, and that that person should be him. Especially since the term Teddy Bear was taken from President Theodore Roosevelt.
She showed us the very first teddy bear that Sortino made in 1981 with absolutely no formal sewing or design experience. It was named Bearcho for its striking resemblance to Groucho Marx. From the glasses to the mustache it was definitely not the most visually appealing bear. He went through several iterations that ultimately led to the formula for the current Vermont Teddy Bear.
In this part of the tour, Lynna – to make sure you were paying attention – asked trivia questions and, if you answered correctly, she would throw you a bear. I ended up with three bears! That made me the winner – at least in our group of four. Yay me!
At this first stop we also learned that the bears are not colors they are flavors. Another way that Vermont Teddy Bear sets themselves apart, and makes their vanilla, butter cream, honey, snow and espresso bears even more delicious.
From here we moved on to the cutting area where all the fur forms are cut for the bears. Leftovers are cut into bear-shaped piece of fur to put over our tour pin – another great give-away idea that’s definitely gonna end up in my scrapbook.
After a few more facts about the cutting machine and bear parts, we moved on to sewing and assembly. There were a handful of workers at sewing machines and tables who seemed quite uninterested in us as they quickly formed the different pieces – inside out! Apparently, all the parts are sewn inside out and then flipped right-side out for the next phase where the limbs and bodies are stuffed at 100 mph. We weren’t allowed in that room for fear that we would have our eyes put out by a tremendous blast of bear guts.
We quickly moved down to the customization center. Here we learned you can have your bear customized in pretty much any manner. In fact, if you send them an idea, they’ll create a sketch and send it to you for your review. Lynna explained that they have received requests for many different outfits from roller derby to sky diving and one woman even sent in a portion of her own wedding gown to be made into a replica of her wedding day photos.
The final stage of the tour is the “hospital” where more of their amazing brand and Lynna’s skills as a Bear ambassador shined! We learned how to care for your Vermont Teddy Bear, and that Vermont Teddy Bears have a lifetime warranty against almost any kind of destruction… even a horrible bear-disemboweling lawnmower accident – which actually happened.
While our group was all adults, Lynna was an absolutely excellent tour guide who made us feel like a child inside. This is a fun tour for all, but especially for families. Just be prepared that your child or children will want a Vermont Teddy Bear to take home which will run you at least $25 each.
For more information and to schedule your tour here.