Our family loves factory tours. And a FREE factory tour is even better! LOL! Last week found us at the Stuffington Bear Factory, right here in snowbird paradise, Phoenix (AZ)!
I was interested in the Stuffington Bear Factory for several reasons. One is the fact that it would be a great field trip for our roadschool, another was the fact that I knew that the kids (the little girls especially) would enjoy it, and third, I simply wanted to check the factory out for myself. I had visited their website, and had noted that their products are Made in the USA, including the materials to construct the stuffed animals, and I also liked their commitment to helping out in their local communities.
Our tribe showed up at the SBF last Thursday, with Vaughn’s uncle, aunt, and cousin in tow. We met in the lobby, and spent a few minutes checking out the factory store that is located in the front of the building. We found that Stuffington manufactures much more than teddy bears! There were all sorts of stuffed animals, from coyotes to camels to bunnies, and even clothing to dress them in. We spent a little time doing a bit of browsing, then we were ushered into a classroom, where our guide gave us the low-down on the Teddy Bear. After the lesson on the origins and history of the bear, we played a little Jeopardy with her while we waited for the previous tour group to get done with their activities.
Our first stop in the factory was seeing all the big rolls of fabric that the stuffed animals are cut out of. The Stuffington Bear Factory is committed to do their part in the world of recycling. The soft, cuddly fabrics that the bears and other animals are made of are created from recycled plastics (who knew?!?) – and the scraps that are left over, after bear parts are cut from the big fabric pieces, are thrown right back in the recycling bin! We then were able to watch several employees sewing fabric pieces together to complete animal bodies. We checked out the big cutting tables, were shown how the eyes and noses are sewn on to the stuffed animals so that they cannot come off when being examined by a curious child, and we were shown how the workers turn the sewn body right side out and then stuff the bodies. Next came the sewing up and finishing of the stuffed animals.
The thing that I love the most about the Stuffington Bear Factory, is their commitment to using Made in the USA fabrics and notions, as well as designing and assembling their products here in the United States. I love their page on why Made in the USA is such a big deal – you can read it here 🙂 SBF has been making bears right here in Phoenix since 1959, and I appreciate the fact that they go the extra mile to make sure that the making of their products provides jobs for their fellow citizens/neighbors. They are also very involved in giving back to their community!
The factory tour takes approximately 20 minutes. It is not a long walk, it is wheelchair accessible, and on one level. If you are interested in a drop-in factory tour, they are offered every Monday thru Saturday at 1pm (if you have a group of 10 or more, for a $4 fee, you can schedule a more in-depth tour of the factory). But, factory tours are not the only activity that Stuffington offers to their guests; there is also a special hands-on aspect to Stuffington that is for everyone – big or little!
When you visit the factory, an optional activity is that you can stuff your very own Stuffington Bear! Actually, you can stuff any stuffed animal that Stuffington offers; the store in the front of the building is full of bins. Bins of animal bodies. Unstuffed. Above the bins, on shelves, are finished stuffed animals (which you can purchase if you simply cannot handle the excitement of stuffing your own;)). The bins are clearly marked with prices (all inclusive price;)), and you can simply choose which item(s) you would like to make.
After our 3 little girls chose the bears that they would like to assemble (we chose the $12-special ones), we headed over to the stuffing machine. With the help of an employee, you can have your animal stuffed by a big machine that blows batting into your animals body through the opening left in one of the seams. Next, you take your creation over to the sewing table, where it is sewn up by hand (by an employee) so the stuffing doesn’t escape. Then it’s off to the buffer – a hand-held buffer will pull all of the fur caught in the seams from sewing out to give your animal a cleaner look. After that, you can vacuum-comb it’s fur, and blow off any fabric particles with pressurized air. All the girls enjoyed making their bears, but Emma really got into making her bear – we about had to drag her out of there!!! The last step is to take your bear to the counter and pick which colors of ribbon you would like to personalize him/her with (you can also purchase clothing for them!). The whole bear-stuffing was such a fun activity for the girls, and they are quite attached to the bears that they made!
Any one can stop by Stuffington and stuff their own bear (or elephant, donkey (Beth’s favorite), coyote, camel, billy goat…) any time during business hours! Stuffington is located at (2302 East Thomas Road Phoenix, Phoenix, AZ ), and their business hours are Monday thru Saturday, 10am to 6pm. Our family found Stuffington to be such a fun and unique outing! Their quality products would make great gifts, or even great souvenirs of a fun winter spent in the beautiful Arizona sunshine!
And even if you cannot make it to the Stuffington Bear Factory in person, you could still enjoy their Made in the USA products by ordering through their website at StuffingtonBearFactory.com. Give them a peek – whether it’s online, or during one of your treks to or through the sunny south. As RVers, we have the opportunity of supporting locally-made products all over the country!!! This is my local right now… is it yours? 😀