Beanie People

I had a small part-time retail business for several years. It was located in the St Jacob's Farmer's Market. I had started with Barbie doll clothes I made but it grew into a doll/teddy bear/plush retail business. My own sewing was phased out. We were open Thursdays and Saturdays from 7 am till 3:30 pm year round and Tuesdays from 8 am till 3 pm were added for June 1 through Labour Day. In the fall of 1993, I was in the Toronto area looking for products as several businesses in that area were doing co-operative open houses. I recall it being a windy, rainy Sunday. My husband and daughter, Megan, then 12, accompanied me. I went into a small office in Richmond Hill for a comapny named Ty Canada. Having always loved dolls and teddies, I loved their products and placed my first order. As Beanie Babies came along and Ty grew, so did my business. In the late Spring of 2000, I found I had developed a health problem and could no longer put in the full days at the Market but Megan had graduated from high school and took over the sales end of things. Unfortunately sales declined. There were two main factors. One was a decline in interest in Beanie Babies but probably a bigger factor was the growing number of secondary dealers allowed to set up as outside vendors. They'd undercut the retail price on most beanies and charge highly for the HTF ones. So people were starting to only buy the special or HTF beanies from me. The end of August 2001 we gave up our spot at the Market. There were high points and low points but it was an experience I'll never regret. I know as a poster to the Ty Cyberboard (as DNS) that many would complain about "stores playing games". Beanies were unlike any other item with their ordering limits and the secondary dealers. I did play some games to try to get things to the true collectors. Although there were some difficult, or even nasty customers, there were many wonderful people that I got to meet as a seller of Beanie Babies. I miss them but would like to share a bit about some. Beanie people came in all ages but were all special.

One of my regular customers was Jessica, a girl of 12 with cancer. She and her father, mother and sister were frequent visitors but mostly it was her and her father who was a warm, outgoing man with a delightful sense of humor who radiated the love he had for, and the pride he had in his daughter. In summer, when she wore shorts I saw the surgical scars on her legs. She wore a cap to cover her baldness. Sometimes she was in a wheelchair; other times crutches. One vivid memory is the day she came in with her dad who pulled off the baseball cap, ruffled her newly growing hair and smilingly proclaimed "Look!" The last time I saw her she was doing very, very well. There was no baseball cap. She required only a cane to help her walk and she'd gotten a newspaper route to help her beanie funds. I feel blessed to have witnessed this young person's tough fought battle and victory.

I think Andrew was about 12. He and his sister collected beanies. Sometimes they would come with their mother but often it was their grandmother. Andrew was a bit quiet and very well-mannered. He especially loved the ape beanies and buddies. When Ty announced the "final" beanies, Andrew phoned me. He'd seen it on the news. We talked for a while. Although I had no special knowledge, I did tell him some things I thought would possibly happen. The call ended with him thanking me and saying he felt better after our talk. If I helped brighten his day, it would only seem fair as he always brightened mine.

When Nicole was in kindergarten she was in the afternoon class so often came to the market with her mother on Thursday mornings. I always enjoyed their visits whether they were shopping or just saying hello. They were especially anxious for Sammy to arrive as that was Nicole's birthday beanie. Brett was Nicole's older brother and would accompany his mother and sister on Saturdays. Brett was probably the most reserved of any of the children I got to know. Back in the days of Maple beanie baby, there was a lot of back ordering and frustration and secondary dealers waiting for their arrival. Some Maples I reserved to be sold by drawing names. I had set a number aside from one shipment for kids only and drew one name each week. Megan liked making the phone calls and hearing the reactions from the kids. Brett's name was chosen one week. His reaction was almost one of awe. His family had been out when Megan phoned but she had left a message. His mom said he played it many times.

Through the kid's draws I did get to know most of their names. Unfortunately, I rarely got to know the adults names. There was an older, retired couple that lived in a neighboring city and often came on Thursdays. They bought Attics as well as beanies. They were originally from England and had the sweetest accents. One time they were going to England to visit and were so hoping to take Maple beanie and McKenzie attic with them for a young relative. Although I could never manage to hold all the things I was asked about for all the people that asked, I did make an exception so that they would have their bears to take with them.

Part of the huge building that housed the section of the Market I was located in, belonged to the Ontario Stockyards. Some days (including every Thursday) there were auctions of livestock - I think mainly cows with special horse auctions on occasion. There was a family from the other side of Toronto, probably a two hour or longer drive, that came each Thursday because of the auctions. As the father/husband kept busy at the auctions, the two women I affectionately called the "cow people" would visit me. They did buy beanies; but often they just visited. Sometimes they even treated me to lunch. :-) They were fun people. I once told them that I thought of them as the "cow people" because that way Megan would know who I meant. They said that was okay because they called me the "beanie lady". The mother and father did spend their winters in Florida though so there were several months I wouldn't see them. When they returned from one winter, the daughter who I did eventually find out was named Sue, said she'd spent the winter in Florida as well. It seems her father had gotten ill and she went down to temporarily help out but stayed the whole time. She works in the family business and found that with a modem and fax she could handle things just as well from there. One of her favorite things about Florida was that she was always the youngest person.

There were so many more wonderful people. Like the woman from the bank who came on her lunches; Natasha, a lovely young girl who waited in line very early to get Birthday Bear when the show exclusives first arrived; the woman who gave me a dutch apple pie for helping her get Flitter for her daughter; the family that brought me flowers after witnessing a scene made by one of the not-so-nice customers and thought I could use some cheering; Laura, the young figure skater whose mom was always getting things for upcoming competitions; the woman from Toronto who came to get the bears that "spoke" to her and her sweet parents; a young man who bought sports bean bag bears whose girlfriend said he'd only buy from the "lady at the market"; the young man who brought me a McDonald's Furby because I didn't get to McDonalds during that promotion. I am finding the more I write, the more warm memories come to mind. Thank you to all the great beanie people whose paths have crossed with mine!

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