What wasn't shown was our trip to "bear" country, not to see live bears — but teddy bears.
Vermont Teddy Bear Company is now the largest U.S. teddy bear manufacturer with an output of 150,000 bears annually. It began in the 1980s when a Vermont resident, John Sortino, found that his children’s stuffed toys, including teddy bears, were non-USA made. Working from his garage, he stitched together a bear and named it “Bearcho,” (an ode to Groucho Marx). Sortino later added movable body parts, re-naming the bear “Buddy.”
Sortino opened a factory in 1985, followed a decade later by the facility we visited in Shelburne, Vermont. Another factory is in Newport. Each bear consists of 20 parts and 14 layers of fur. There are various stations along its path to completion, such as the Sewing Station, where parts are stitched inside-out to hide the seams and the Stuffing Station, where, a machine shoots recycled bottle fillings into the bear at 100 mph.
Not only are all teddy bears assembled in Vermont, but most of the component materials come from America as well; the bear "fur" is made in Wisconsin. The eyes of every bear contain the phrase “Born in Vermont” as does a rear tag.Each bear comes with a lifetime guarantee and will be repaired or replaced, at any time, as long as the tag on the bear’s rear is identifiable. Injured bears go to the Bear Hospital for treatment. If the injury is too serious, the bear will be replaced. During our factory tour, we saw several bear "tragedies" including burned when used as a pot holder, chewed by a dog, melted in the dryer, and run over by a lawn mower.
We met the "head" (or rather very large) bear" during our factory tour. And, we couldn't leave (actually we could have, but decided not to) and brought home our own teddy bear, who we named "Shelby."