New shop lets customers grin, #039;bear#039; it

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 17, 2005

WHEELERSBURG - Amanda Carter's most recent additions to her family were a white rabbit named Roxy who loves rock 'n' roll, and a bear who goes by Gabby, named after Carter's 3-year-old daughter.

It may sound like Carter's home is a real zoo, but actually, that distinction belongs to her brand new Wheelersburg business called Bear Necessities Express LLC, which lets children make their own stuffed animals as unique as Gabby and Roxy.

"It honestly just kind of fell into my lap," Carter said. "I was tired of going to Cincinnati to the nearest Build-A-Bear Workshop, and my daughter's three and she loves going. So I decided that if my daughter liked going, I started talking to other mothers and they were doing the same thing, and I thought 'Why not open up one close so people don't have to travel so far?'"

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So, in the beginning of last month, Carter traveled to New Jersey in a moving truck to pick up teddy bear-stuffing equipment that she had won through an Internet auction.

Carter opened the door to her store on Saturday, and the 50 or so customers present at her grand opening were treated to the store's child-friendly d\u00E9cor of jungles and other fun landscapes painted by Carter's aunt.

Once children can be pulled away from the colorful murals they'll begin to create their new friend, choosing from several stuffing-less animals, such as bears, pink poodles and lions.

Children can also then choose to add a voice to their stuffed animal for an additional charge.

It's then that the fun really begins. The animal is then attached to a stuffing machine that's powered by a pedal that the child can operate. Little ones then must select a heart and a name for their new pal, after which, Carter prints out a birth certificate for the animal.

And of course, since the new addition can't be allowed to prance around in its birthday suit, animal outfits are also available for purchase.

Carter said that it's the customization and creation process that really separates Bear Necessities from other stuffed animal shops.

"They get to help with the process and they actually get to see that stuffed animal come to life, and I think that plays a very important part in it," Carter said. "They're helping make their new friend come to life, and that friend becomes a really significant part of their life."

Bear Necessities is located off of Ohio River Road next to the old Lowe's building in the Southern Ohio Craft Mall. For more information or store times, Amanda Carter can be reached at

(740) 574-9370.