The company was founded by Maxine Clark in 1996 and opened its first store in the Saint Louis Galleria. By 2007 the store had sold over 50 million bears and had over 400 stores in operation worldwide in Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Japan, South Korea, The Netherlands, Norway, the Republic of Ireland, Poland, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Sweden, Taiwan, Thailand, the United Kingdom and the United States (including Puerto Rico). While the majority of Build-A-Bear stores are in shopping malls, by 2008 the company had opened five stores in Major League Baseball stadiums.
In 2006, the company acquired The Bear Factory from Hamleys and began operating in its flagship store in London.
Build-A-Bear has also engaged in various charities, including the WWF Collecti-bear series which has given over $1 million (USD) to the World Wildlife Fund. As part of its tenth birthday celebration, the company built 11 playgrounds throughout the USA and Canada in partnership with KaBlam! and announced that it had donated over $11 million to various child and family causes since 1997. The store also hosts an event called "Stuffed For Hugs Weekend" in May, in which guests at Build-a-Bear are given the opportunity to stuff a pre-selected animal for charity. There is a similar weekend that occurs in late October known as "The Spirit of Giving" in which guests can make stuffed ghosts.
A Build-A-Bear Workshop video game was developed by The Game Factory and released for the Nintendo DS platform for Christmas 2007.
Build-A-Bear has also created several tie-in stuffed animals for various promotional events, including a toy The Cat in the Hat, a toy Shrek, a toy Cody Maverick penguin from Surf's Up, and a toy Mumble from Happy Feet. Build-A-Bear workshop has also released several lines of miniature toys included in Happy Meals at McDonald's restaraunts, running first in May 2006 followed by a second promotion in August 2007 and a third in October 2009....
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