Demand for free toys overwhelms Vt Teddy Bear

Last Wednesday, Shelburne’s Vermont Teddy Bear Company announced an ambitious goal: to provide every 4-year-old in Vermont with a teddy bear, free of cost. The venture, dubbed the Vermont Cub Project, is a way for the company to be socially responsible and give back to Vermonters, according to Bear Brand Manager Abby Temeles.

But on Sunday night, the company issued a statement on their Facebook page that stated that due to overwhelming demand, the inventory was extremely low.

“As much as we thought we were prepared for this, we didn’t think there would be a huge wave all of a sudden,” Temeles said. “We thought, ‘Oh, people will save it for a rainy day.’ But the traffic was instantaneous.”

The company started running low on “shells,” (the outsides of the teddy bears, which customers can stuff themselves, and have sewn in the Bear Shop) less than a week after the project was announced. There were long lines of people waiting to receive the bears, some waiting as long as 15 minutes to get their bear made.

“Our retail staff spends about 10 minutes with each customer,” Temeles explained. “We only make them as quickly as we can, so we want people to know that they may not get the exact color or body shape they are looking for.”

Inspiration for the Vermont Cub Project came from watching children make teddy bears in the Bear Shop, and seeing the instant companionship that formed, according to Temeles.

“We wish more kids could have access to them,” she said.

The Vermont Cub Project encourages every Vermonter who is four years old to visit the Bear Shop to make a free furry friend (on bears up to $39.99). Vermont Teddy Bear hopes to gift over 650 bears in the first year.

After Sunday’s Facebook post, concerned customers commented on the company’s Facebook post, wondering if the low inventory would mean their children would lose the chance to get a free bear.

“The answer is no,” Temeles said. “We are making them as fast as we can. And we are definitely hoping that this project is something that will be ongoing for the foreseeable future.”

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