Cooperstown Bears has hit a home run—again—through its dedication to ingenuity and innovation.
When you take a gander at Cooperstown Bears’ lush archives, you assume this is a firm that has been around for decades, if not a century. They have accomplished so much, and have birthed so many beautiful and comely critters. A perusal at their catalogs leaves you impressed by the breadth and depth of their creations and their design team. When you learn that Cooperstown Bears has just turned 15 years old—blowing out the birthday candles in May 2007—it is positively staggering. How did they do so much in a mere decade-and-a-half? And further more, what do they have planned for the next decade or two?
Teddy Bear Review had the great pleasure of chatting with the folks at Cooperstown Bears. Located in Buffalo Grove, Ill., the firm might have a Busch Parkway street address, but its company core really resides in a global appreciation for quality craftsmanship, clever costuming and always being prepared to try something new and daring.
We asked the creative team, which took an initial love for baseball and ran with it, to chat a little bit about its origins, its accomplishments and where they hope to be heading. If life were a baseball game, these passionate and committed folks would be swinging for the stands and counting on grand-slam results. Toiling tirelessly and inventively, there’s no 7th-inning stretch for the busy bear staff. Here, then, are “10 Questions with Cooperstown Bears,” a fun way to play catch-up with an old friend.
1. When did the company begin, and who started it?
The founder of the company was Robert Kronenberger, and he is very involved in all aspects of Cooperstown Bears. It was founded in May 1992, in Illinois.
2. I’m surprised to hear that it began in Illinois. When I hear “Cooperstown,” I immediately think of upstate New York and the Baseball Hall of Fame. Where does the company name stem from?
Well, the name originated from the first bears we made: the “Cooperstown Collection.” In this collection, we made vintage bears for Major League Baseball. The first line of bears, the 21-inch Cooperstown bears, honored baseball’s past and present.
3. Who comes up with the different product lines/imprints today? Is it one person’s decision or a team effort?
We try as a whole to develop new concepts that attract multiple interests: sports, of course, history or entertainment. We love to see these figures come to life in the form of a teddy bear. We have an “in house” staff of designers, as well as draw upon a pool of artists from all over the world.
4. How does one decide which famous personality to pursue for the “Legends” line?
We have an internal panel that sits down regularly to discuss aspects of history and modern culture. This allows us to develop an extensive platform of “Teddy Legends” to be created in the future. We work hard to design a bear that resembles a person, but still retains its special teddy bear appeal.
5. Tell us a little bit about the “Vintage Teddies” line that you’ve launched.
These are our old-style traditional teddy bears that pay homage to the rich, wonderful history of the teddy bear. So many people we have talked with have shared vivid memories from their childhoods. We try to capture some of those memories with our “Vintage Teddies,” and we believe we’ve been succeeding.
6. The “Zoology 101” line of diverse animals is very compelling. How does Cooperstown figure out which animal should be created?
We choose well-known animals, as well as those with interesting features and characteristics. Though they can’t ever be truly captured, “Zoology 101” gives us the chance to take a closer look at some very magnificent animals. (Author’s note: The marvelous menagerie that Cooperstown is building focuses on familiar creatures from travelogues and nature parks, as well as exotic wildlife that very few of us have ever encountered, cinematically or personally. Giraffes, elephants, gorillas, crowned guenons and Malayan tapirs comprise just a few of the four-legged beasts that are rendered painstakingly and meticulously.)
7. Does the company ever host collector events, or have collector outreach days?
Last year, we had a contest for look-alike bears. Collectors sent in pictures of themselves and one of our artists designed a bear for the winner. We have been a sponsor of the ABC Show in Schaumburg, Ill., and we’ve contributed bears for the centerpieces for the dinner prior to the show.
8. How do you view the bear world nowadays?
Currently, there aren’t as many high-end teddy bears being sold, but the major point to recognize is that they are still greatly sought after and desired.
9. Do you want to add anything about Cooperstown’s place in the bear world?
We want to enhance and expand all aspects of our company. We think people recognize us for our extremely creative and well-produced limited editions. The next level for us is to become the quintessential purveyor of teddy bears.
10. Will collecting teddy bears ever go out of fashion?
With a collector base that is so feverish, there will always be a strong demand for teddy bears. You can count on that.