Vermont Teddy Bear Company
|Type||Privately held company|
|Parent||The Mustang Group|
|Subsidiaries||Calyx & Corolla
Gift Bag Boutique
|Website||Vermont Teddy Bear Company|
The Vermont Teddy Bear Company (VTB) is one of the largest producers of teddy bears and the largest seller of teddy bears by mail order and Internet. The company handcrafts each of its teddy bears and produces almost 500,000 teddy bears each year. The company was formerly traded on the NASDAQ stock exchange under the ticker symbol BEAR, but was taken private by The Mustang Group, a Boston-based private equity firm, on September 30, 2005, partially to avoid the reporting requirements of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.
The company was founded in 1983 by John Sortino, who sold handcrafted teddy bears in an open-air market in Burlington, Vermont. Sortino happened upon the idea of packaging and selling bears through the mail when a tourist visiting Burlington wanted a bear mailed to her home. The concept was called the "Bear-Gram", which features the customized teddy bear placed in a box (complete with an "air hole") and stuffed with other goodies.
By 1995, the company moved into its new headquarters in Vermont's Champlain Valley. The company has two factories: one in Shelburne and one in Newport. The Shelburne factory is an especially popular tourist destination, and also served as a concert site for the annual Vermont Mozart Festival. The company also maintained two retail locations in Vermont - Shelburne and on the main road between Waterbury and Stowe.
Also by 1995, VTB had sponsored on the East Coast various guns-for-bears exchanges and expanded to the West Coast in 1996 starting with UC Irvine's Student Physicians for Social Responsibility and the Brea Police Department.
In May 1997, the Vermont Teddy Bear Co. filed a copyright infringement suit against Disney over "Pooh-Grams" being similar to its mail-order "Bear-Gram" trademark and logo.
VTB acquired Calyx & Corolla, an upscale flower company headquartered in Vero Beach, Florida in 2003. Ironically, one of Vermont Teddy Bear's marketing slogans claimed that sending a teddy bear is "a creative alternative to sending flowers." In 2005, the company launched a new sister company, Gift Bag Boutique, which offered handbags and purses along with many make-up accessories. Along with PajamaGram, which sold gift pajamas, and TastyGram, which offered gourmet food gifts, the creation of this sister company brought the total number of companies under the Vermont Teddy Bear umbrella to five. Gift Bag Boutique and TastyGram stopped accepting orders as of June 26, 2008.
For Valentine's Day of 2005, Vermont Teddy Bear caused widespread controversy by offering a "Crazy for You" Bear which wore a white strait jacket with a red heart embroidered and a tag entitled "Commitment Papers" came with the bear. Mental health groups from all over the U.S. asked for the bear to be pulled out of production, VTB kept the bear up for sale but sold out quickly and Elizabeth Robert, the company head, resigned from the board of Vermont's largest hospital, Fletcher Allen Health Care. In May, VTB agreed to be acquired by a Mustang Group led investment group for $6.50 a share.
VTB was listed amongst "'a broad range of direct marketers' pitched by the show’s hosts themselves" who were taking out more ads on talk radio in 2010, according to Dan Metter, director of talk-radio sales of Premiere Radio Networks. Conservative radio hosts were seeing an uptick in listener numbers and advertising in the lead-up to the year's midterm elections. Premiere is the syndicator of the top three talk-radio shows—hosted respectively by Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck.
- "Vermont Teddy Bear Co. Sues Disney". Los Angeles Times. AP. May 28, 1997. Retrieved 6 April 2013.
- Pope, John (March 30, 1996). "They Hope to Create a Bear Market for Gun Owners". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 6 April 2013.
- "Gift Bag Boutique Homepage". Retrieved 2009-02-09. and "TastyGram Homepage". Retrieved 2009-02-09.
- "Teddy Bear Chief Quits Board of Vt. Hospital". Los Angeles Times. AP. February 10, 2005. Retrieved 6 April 2013.
- "IN BRIEF Also". Los Angeles Times. May 17, 2005. Retrieved 6 April 2013.
- Wilkerson, David B.,"Talk radio’s a hit in polarized environment: Ad sales are rising for Clear Channel’s Premiere Radio Networks," Marketwatch, Sept. 22, 2010, 6:00 a.m. EDT. Retrieved 2010-09-22.