Build-A-Bear Workshop opens redesigned Interactive Store

When we were at Hamley's Toy Store in London this summer, one of the coolest things in the whole store (and boy does Hamley's have a lot of cool stuff!) was the interactive bathtub in the Build-A-Bear Workshop section.  The "water surface" in the tub was actually an electronic touchscreen that rippled and splashed when you poked your finger at it or sailed a boat through it, and when you put the little rubber duckies in the "water", you could see their little paddling feet!  The kids couldn't stop playing with it!

The interactive bathtub is just one of many new hi-tech features that Build-A-Bear Workshop is bringing to its stores.  The very first redesigned Build-A-Bear Workshop store opened on September 21 in St. Louis, where the company is headquartered, and it plans to open a total of six of these cool new stores across the U.S. in 2012.

Last Friday I had the good fortune to attend the opening of the second redesigned Build-A-Bear Workshop store, at the Stoneridge Shopping Center in Pleasanton.   I joined hundreds of families who had lined up to be the first to try out the new interactive experiences the store had to offer.  Here's a rundown on what's new and improved at the new Build-A-Bear Workshop store!

Store Design
The new store is filled with electronic billboards that will change to reflect the seasons, holidays and special events. Some of the electronic posters at the front of the store have interactive technology that allows kids to play around with them.

Choosing your new friend
Kids still go through the Choose Me stations to select from a variety of furry friends to stuff, dress and love -- but there is now a new Love Me station, which lets kids assign personality attributes to the red satin heart that they will put into the stuffie.  When kids scan their stuffie's tag, the stuffie's heart appears on a big touchscreen, and they can drag personality icons representing traits like Brave, Sporty, Silly, Caring, etc.. into a digital heart (parents, you may have guessed that the heart is a decoy -- the key is actually scanning the unique barcode that comes with the stuffie!)

Choosing a sound
The new Hear Me station is now controlled by an interactive touch screen.  Kids can choose a variety of sounds, or even use their own voice, and record it onto a sound chip that will be placed inside their stuffie.

The Stuff Me station is still the most special place in the store!  This is where the magic happens -- my kids still love pressing the foot pedal to control the amount of fluff that gets into their new friends.   The new stores will even give guests the option of adding scents to their stuffies.  Current scents are bubble gum, strawberry, cotton candy and chocolate chip, with more to come over the holidays and the changing seasons.


Once the last seams are pulled shut, kids can brush out their bear at the new Fluff Me station, which features the interactive bathtub that we first saw at Hamley's.  It is so cute!  The touchscreen surface recognizes the items you place on it -- the soap produces bubbles, the tugboat makes the water ripple, and the rubber ducky has paddling feet!  When kids place their new friends under the showerheads, air will blow through the showerheads, and after a while, you'll see the "water surface" drain down the tub to signal the end of their tub time.


The Dress Me section has a Match Me station that lets you scan in the tag of any clothing or accessory item and see how it looks on a Build-A-Bear friend.  The screen shows suggestions on matching clothes or accessories to complete an outfit and lets you print out a list of the items so you can easily find them in the store.

Creating a birth certificate
The new Name Me station does more than create a birth certificate for your child's new Build-A-Bear stuffie.  Kids can now "scan in" their stuffie and use a special "bear-o-scope" to "look inside their stuffie" and see the icons representing the attributes that they dragged into their stuffie's heart at the Love Me Station.  These personality attributes are added to the birth certificate, along with a photo of the animal and all the other information on the birth certificate (name, birth date, owner's name, etc..).  Each birth certificate also has a unique identifying code that is also on a barcode that was inserted into the stuffie at the Stuff Me station.  That way, if the stuffie is ever lost and returned to a Build-A-Bear Workshop store, it can be scanned and reunited with its owner.  The code also lets kids bring their stuffie to life online at

I had so much fun at the opening of the new Build-A-Bear Workshop store! I got to see all the cool new technology, and I got to see the first 100 kids try out the new features as they created special Build-A-Bear stuffies to be donated to needy families via the Red Cross.  I even got to create new furry friends for my own kids, and in the process, I found that Build-A-Bear has stayed true to the basic bear-making experience that has made them so popular with kids and parents -- but the new hi-tech store features make the process even more fun.

New Locations
Build-A-Bear Workshop will open other new concept stores in the following premiere shopping centers located in family-centric areas throughout the United States.  If you live near any of these, I highly recommend checking them out!

Annapolis Shopping Mall in Annapolis, Md. on Friday, Oct. 19
The Somerset Collection in Troy, Mich. on Friday, Oct. 26
Fair Oaks Mall in Fairfax, Va. on Friday, Nov. 9
Castleton Square Mall in Indianapolis, Ind. on Friday, Nov. 16

Disclosure: I attended the Stoneridge event at Build-a-Bear's invitation, and received bears and outfits for my 3 kids. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

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