- By supernovamommy
- 8 November, 2012
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Review of New Build-A-Bear Workshop
by DeLise Benard
The New Build-A-Bear Workshop store summed up in one word: SuperFantasticBestDayofMyLife. Yes, that’s how my 5-year-old son described our recent participation in the Grand re-opening “CeleBEARation” of the Build-A-Bear Workshop store in Westfield’s Annapolis Shopping Mall. (The Fair Oaks Mall Store is opening November 9, 2012. ) These redesigned Build-A-Bear Workshop store are two of only six that will open nationally this year. Coupled with their “Stuffed with Hugs” program, families not only made bears for themselves but also supported an event to provide 100 bears to children in need through the Toys for Tots program!
The last time we visited a Build-A-Bear Workshop store my son created a bear for his little sister who was still in the womb. It’s amazing how much can change in 2 years! The interactive technology in the newly designed store is remarkable. From the Microsoft Kinect touch signage on the storefront to the “bear-a-scope” viewfinder at the end of the process, the team found ways to create a tech-savvy experience for all ages.
Upon entry, a wide array of stuffed animals line the wall encouraging guests to “Choose Me.” No, they are not all bears! Elephants, dogs, bunnies, and even Hello Kitty, are among the many varieties of characters available. Extra effort was made by the store design team to put the characters at the children’s level so they can grab, touch, put back, and grab another as they slowly selected their favorite.
If your children are anything like mine, bring an extra dose of patience during this part of the process. The Build-A-Bear Workshop team created so many great options so the children may get all the way to the last stuffed animal and decide they want the first one they saw at the front of the store! Then put that one back after seeing another cool character in the middle of the wall.
After making “the most important decision of their life”, children head to the “Love Me” station. If you’ve visited a Build-A-Bear Workshop store before, this is where they get those little red hearts. However, unlike in the past when the children made a wish, did a dance, then put the heart inside, now, they are able to customize its personality.
Using Samsung’s SUR40 with Microsoft® PixelSense™ technology the children place the heart on a special table that recognizes the heart and comes to life, allowing the children to input their names and then slide personality traits “into” the heart.
Any child that has played with the technology available these days will intuitively be able to use the table. My two year old is a pro at Angry Birds so she quickly got the concept and proceeded to add every personality trait to her heart. So, she ended up with a strong, silly, caring, funny, brave, sporty, etc…(you get the point)…camouflaged bear!
Remember when I told you to bring your patience? Well, the next station, “Hear Me,” is another place to perfect it! Children are given the option to choose from a large variety of songs and sounds to insert into their furry friends. The playlist seemed endless, especially since they could choose to record their own voice. Our experience went something like this:
Mommy: How about the Chipmunks Vacation Song?
R2: Yes, Mommy! YES!
Mommy: Okay, then select it and press Next.
R2: Noooooo, Mommy, I want this one.
Mommy: Okay, you want the sound of the womb? Alright, then select it and press Next.
R2: Noooooo, Mommy, I want this one.
Mommy: Um, okay. Let’s record your voice.
R2: “I love you, I love you, I love you” (in the softest voice possible)
Mommy: (playing it back for her) Is this what you want?
R2: Nooooo, Mommy, I want the Chipmunks!
You get the point (again!)
A cool feature at this station is that when the children scan their animal’s tag, the computer recognizes their name and type of bear. My daughter enjoyed seeing her name and bear “in lights!”
Not much has changed with the “Stuff Me” station with regards to technology. The children still stand on the step to assist the staff member in “stuffing” their new buddy. Oh, and don’t forget the dance, twirl, and wish before inserting their heart with all of its new “personality.” What has changed is that you can now add “SCENTiments” to make their friend smell extra special including: chocolate chip, cotton candy, and bubble gum. My son chose strawberry and it is still very fragrant. The scents will change by season and holiday making it a fun way to customize your bear and elicit certain memories based on the scent.
Before closing the seam, the Build-A-Bear staff insert a barcode into the bear that, if lost, can be used to return to the bear to the owner using their exclusive Find-A-Bear® ID program. For an “on the go” family, this is a great incentive to allow your child to bring their new friend out and about without fear of it getting lost forever.
You would think that after the stuffing you’re done. But our friend still needed to be washed and clothed! Next stop: “Fluff Me”
The fun Samsung and Microsoft technology is back with the innovations made at this station. The air hoses are still there (kids love those!) but now there is a digital bath tub that recognizes your bear and “ripples” when you place it on the surface. The bar of soap creates magic bubbles when placed in the tub and the rubber ducky “swims” with digital legs.
My kids didn’t want to leave this station. But, the Build-A-Bear team knew that would happen so after a few minutes, the “magic” shuts down and tells you that your bear is all clean! This allows parents to move the children along without the associated tears! This is also the time to head to the “Dress Me” station which seemed to be another favorite!
The options for attire seemed as endless as the sound effects! (Patience, are you there??) The clothing is now separated by themes and, due to phenomenal partnerships, children can dress their friend as anything from Buzz Lightyear to Cinderella; from an athlete to a dancer; from a fire fighter to a mariachi performer; not to mention, endless accessories like hats, shoes, purses, and glasses. There’s even “Match Me” technology that gives the children suggestions based on the stuffed animal they chose. We ended up using the “Dressing Room” to transform ours into Spider-Man and Brave! Yes, a red-headed camouflaged bear, something only a toddler can love!
The next station, “Name Me,” was my personal favorite and the biggest surprise. Here you name the bear and get your birth certificate. However, now, when you place the stuffed animal on the station, it scans it and, using the “bear-o-scope” you can see all of the personality traits in the bear, listen to the song on the sound chip, and even hear the heartbeat. Although we adults know it is simply recognizing the scanned tag, from the child’s perspective, it felt like the little heart actually held the personality. Brilliant. It was like a “reminder” of all of the work the child put in at each station to personalize their new friend! A great ending to a wonderful experience, something you will truly want others to enjoy.
After retrieving our printed birth certificate and Cub Condo® box for our new friends, we were given big bear hugs by the staff (no shaking hands!!) and haven’t stopped talking about the experience!
I highly recommend visiting the newly redesigned Build-A-Bear Workshop store in Westfield Annapolis Mall or the other in Fair Oaks set to open November 9th, 2012! As luck would have it, our area is actually home to TWO of the six new stores in the nation. Lucky, lucky us!