Build-A-Bear Workshop Adds New Level of Excitement to St. Louis Union Station

Tuesday February 4, 2020

Someone called it the cherry atop a perfect day at St. Louis Union Station.

Maybe it is. How else would you describe a visit to St. Louis’ own Build-A-Bear Workshop where kids of all ages, after a day of visiting the exciting new attractions at the Station, can create a special “furry friend” they’ll probably keep forever?

The newest B-A-B Workshop in town opened literally adjacent to the Union Station parking lot just in time for the Christmas Day opening of the St. Louis Aquarium. The one-of-a-kind, two-story aquarium houses 13,000 aquatic animals from freshwater and marine environments around the world in historic Union Station.

The Aquarium and Build-A-Bear Workshop join other new attractions including a 200-foot tall Observation Wheel, a three-story rope course, a mini-golf course and The Soda Fountain, a restaurant offering “fun, fizz, and flavor for all” to make Union Station a unique, totally St. Louis experience.

The B-A-B store is the third in the St. Louis area with others at the Galleria, West County Center and St. Clair Square. A seasonal store at Busch Stadium is open only during home games and carries Cardinal gear and St. Louis items. “We also have some of our opponents’ gear as well for those fans that come to town,” said Emily Fuhrman, senior manager, cause marketing & foundation.

“With all the excitement of Union Station as a place where families are going, it makes a ton of sense for us to be here,” she said. “You can come in and make a great memory here, go to the Aquarium, go to the Wheel and then you have this great furry friend to take home to remember your fun day with your family.”

Locals and visitors alike will love the store, which features a beautiful St. Louis mural in the back (great photo opp!) and items not available elsewhere, even online. The store often features deals and specials as well as in-store events to add to the fun.

Diehard Build-A-Bear lovers will find it easy to make their way to the store at the iconic Union Station location. “We have people who drive hours just to make a day in St. Louis and Build-A-Bear’s part of that day,” Kristen Story, assistant workshop manager, said. She’s seen people come from as far away as Arkansas to visit a B-A-B store.

The store is expansive, light, airy and bright. Unstuffed furry friends are folded and placed in display cases so a sea of little faces look up at you.

St. Louis attire

A large area features bears and other furry friends dressed in St. Louis sports attire. There’s even a hockey stick and puck for the Blues player and a bat, ball and glove for the St. Louis Cardinal. Don’t want a bear dressed as a player? How about Fredbird or Clydesdale as your furry friend?

The store is distinctive not only because of its location but because it’s BQ or Bearquarters (headquarters in bearspeak) of the massive bear empire with 300 U.S. stores and 400 worldwide. The company was founded in 1997 by St. Louisan Maxine Clark. It’s beyond cool to think that children in places as far away as India, China and Australia are experiencing the thrill of creating their own furry friend the same way American kids are. And it all started here in St. Louis.

The Union Station store is also a new type of B-A-B store, a “discovery store,” a prototype that might be used for other B-A-B stores.

“It changes up the way the choose-me wall is set up so it’s a little bit more interactive for kids,” Fuhrman said. “Because the furry friends are now open, kids can see them at their level whereas in some other stores they’re in bins, and you have to peer in. If you’re a little guy, it’s hard sometimes.”

It’s hard, too, to decide which furry friend is for you. The choices are mind-boggling. “We have obviously our traditional teddy bear option but we also have a lot of licensed options,” Fuhrman said. “We have Pokémons, we have Frozen, we have Star Wars, How to Train Your Dragon, Paw Patrol. But then we also have our own properties.”

The newest is the Heartables line, a “blind bag” option. “Literally you get the bag, and you don’t know what’s in it,” Fuhrman said. Visitors can choose from “Unicorn Land” with one of three unicorns or “Safari Stripes” which ensures a colorful, striped furry friend.

Customize a furry friend

For the uninitiated: Build-A-Bear workshop is a place where you can customize your own “furry friend” and pick out its wardrobe from an astounding array of options.

The bear-making process is magical. The guest, most often — but not always — a child picks out the empty shell that will become a beloved furry friend.

Once the visitor finds the furry friend that will become their bosom buddy, they can add sound and smell. Choose a dinosaur’s roar, the wedding march, a kid giggling or even Sonny and Cher singing “I’ve Got You, Babe” or dozens of others. Want something different? Record your own 10-20 second message.

You can also infuse your furry friend with a smell. Roses anyone? Don’t care for the scent of flowers? How about the smell of Thin Mint Girl Scout cookies?

Next step: A sales associate hooks the lifeless form to the Stuffer, a machine that shoots fill into it bringing the furry friend to life.

Before stitching the opening, the associate performs the all-important “Heart Ceremony” where the furry friend’s owner prepares a red satin heart for insertion into its chest.

The owner is instructed to do a series of actions to the heart to give the furry friend some desirable attributes. For example, “Rub it strenuously to make it warm” and “Rub it on your ears so your best friend keeps all your secrets like they should,” The owner will also be told to hold the heart and jump with it or to “shake it, shake it, shake it” to give the furry friend a strong heartbeat.

“Then you take your heart, hold it tight in your hands and make a really big wish,” Story said. “After you make your wish, we ask you to give the heart a kiss so the wish will come true. Then we put it inside your friend so you’ve actually stuffed your friend with love.”

Even the hard-to-please demographic — teens — enjoys visiting B-A-B.

Story recalls a teenager who built a basic bear, then dressed it in overalls, flannel shirt, cowboy hat and boots.

“It was for her brother who was away at college,” she said. “They lived on a farm, and she said she wanted to give him a little piece of home. She recorded a special message to put inside the bear and shipped it off to him so her brother had his country-looking bear from back here in the Midwest.”

Blog written by Kathie Sutin

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