Toy Manufacturing Company Plans $24M Facility in Columbus, Ohio

Dec. 30--Thousands of stuffed teddy bears, kittens, dogs and other furry toys will spend some time at a warehouse to be built near Rickenbacker Airport.

Build-A-Bear Workshop Inc. said it plans to develop a 350,000-square-foot stuffed-animal factory and distribution center at Groveport Commerce Center.

The company said it plans to hire 100 workers before it begins operations at the center in September.

The $24 million project includes 25 acres of land the company purchased from Duke Realty Corp.

Duke has begun work on the site and is under contract to have the warehouse finished in the summer, Duke Senior Vice President Jim Clark said. Build-A-Bear will join Cardinal Health, Gap, Kubota and other tenants at the park north of Rickenbacker Airport.

Build-A-Bear plans to use the building as its primary North American distribution location. Its employees also will create toys and dolls that are sold over the Internet.

Build-A-Bear President Barry Erdos said the building will "improve inventory control and management ... and reduce operating costs." The company will continue to operate distribution centers in Toronto and Los Angeles.

"We appreciate the cooperation and support we have received from the city of Columbus and from the village of Groveport," Erdos said.

Build-A-Bear is a publicly traded company based in St. Louis. In addition to its Internet operations, it has more than 200 retail stores. It posted $302 million in revenue in 2004.

Two of its retail locations are in central Ohio: at Easton Town Center and the Mall at Tuttle Crossing. Customers select partially sewn, animal-shaped fabric shells and have them stuffed with hypoallergenic, polyester fiberfill by store workers.

To put it another way, they build their own toys.

Before the final stitching, the owner inserts a small, fabric heart to symbolize bringing the animal to life. Customers also name the critter and can outfit it with optional clothes and accessories.

Build-A-Bear also operates Friends 2B Made, a make-it-yourself doll store. Company representatives told Groveport officials that it plans to double its combined number of stores.

"We're thrilled to have them," said Jeff Green, Groveport's economic-development director. "They're making a substantial investment, and from what we understand they're a good community partner." Groveport Commerce Park is in a community reinvestment area. That means Build-A-Bear will be eligible for a 15-year, 100 percent abatement of real property taxes.

(Columbus Dispatch (Ohio) (KRT) -- 01/02/06)