If you were to have said Build-a-Bear Workshop to me a month ago I’d have sighed, conjuring up a half-forgotten memory of a bear I received one birthday when I worked for a well-known insurance company. I’d only been there about six weeks when it was my birthday and they thought that I would love a fluffy lamb dressed up in a pink dress. Whilst I appreciated the thought and sentiment gift, I cannot fathom what made them parlay my fondness for pink pens and lip-shaped Post-It notes (a gift from DH-before-he-was-DH on my first day at work) into a stuffed animal.
Fast forward a *ahem* few years and I nearly snapped off the hand of the Build-a-Bear Workshop PR team when they offered PD a Build-a-Bear Workshop experience. We walk past our local branch every time we go into Bromley, so she is well aware of what goes on behind the hallowed doors and had been begging me for ages. An added incentive was the friend we were allowed to share the Build-a-Bear Workshop joy with too.
And it truly was a joy. PD and Best Friend Ellie were enchanted by April who gave us an unforgettable tour of the Build-a-Bear Workshop. She sat patiently whilst The Girls agonised over which animal to choose. She sat patiently whilst they agonised over which sound to put inside their Bears of Choice. She sat patiently whilst they agonised over which heart they wanted to put inside their bear. In fact, if I have one criticism of Build-a-Bear Workshop it’s that there was simply TOO MUCH CHOICE. Two girls with a combined age of 5 really can’t handle more than a choice between A or B, and even then that sometimes goes wrong, and said child ends up in a pool of tears and flailing limbs on the floor. I spent most of our 90 minutes holding my breath, expecting at any minute a tanty that never came.
The reason it didn’t come was April: she was amazing. If they train all their staff that way, Build-a-Bear Workshop must regularly lose people to the nanny business. Even Dimples, who endured the entire experience from the safety of the pushchair, was enchanted by her.
PD and BFE made wishes and whispered secrets to their bears, they pressed buttons and activated stuffing machines, they washed and fluffed their bears to within an inch of their little lives and, just when you thought you were winding down, they embarked on the most epic task of all: the Outfit.
Frankly by this point I could have stripped naked and run round the store: PD wouldn’t have noticed. BFE’s mum and I almost went for coffee, so engrossed were they in the choice of dresses and skirts and hats and tiaras. And shoes, my God, the shoes you could buy your bear. When you thought you were done with the outfits, there were bags and beds and wardrobes, bows and flowers and accessorising small animals.
The sheer volume of choice was blowing my mind too, although I’d have loved a bear in the Darth Vader costume. Or maybe the Hula Girl, complete with coconut bra. And then there were the Royal Wedding bears. No, still can’t choose.
You can see why it took 90 minutes. And even then, you weren’t finished. There was the Birth Certificate to fill in, which required a name for your creation. Thus Purple Princess and Hello Kitty were brought into the world. They think of everything, those Build-a-Bear Workshop people: there’s a tag which can be scanned so that if your precious lost bear is returned to a store by a kind stranger it can be returned to you. There are gift cards for buying new outfits, meaning you don’t have to shell out on a new bear every time. You can buy things online if you can’t get to a store easily, which is great for Birthday Gifts. There are special edition bears. There are spare hair bows and colouring sheets. There’s a whole Bearville community online. I’m amazed there wasn’t a celebratory glass of Champagne or Cigar for the new ‘parents’ of the bears.
I cannot recommend the Build-a-Bear Workshop enough, either for two friends or for a great big birthday party. We had such a wonderful time, all down to the incredible staff who involved the girls every step of the way. They came away clutching their Bear box feeling so special, even Dimples who got her very own little Build-a-Bear Workshopdog. Two very happy girls and I was a very happy Mamma.
For more information, or to find your nearest store, please go to www.buildabear.co.uk