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Custom Cuddles: Pawsenclaws & Co. by JGA, Inc.

Staten Island, NY: A retail environment for teddy bear lovers of all ages inspires gift-giving and supports the brand story (it's also a great setting for parties!).

by Kristen Richards
April 11, 2002

In the current environment of retail woes, there is at least one tale about happy beginnings and, most likely, happy endings (with lots of franchises). The story begins with Bearon and Bearoness Pawsenclaws of Bearvely Hills and their department store…


That is the premise the JGA design team and Pawsenclaws & Co. founder and president Steve Mandell started with for the prototype of the custom teddy bear-making store that opened in the Staten Island Mall last November. The 3,949-square-foot store is a fantasy depiction of the Pawsenclaws & Co. department store. The bear-making process steps are themed as “departments” within the store.


The concept of custom plush animals is not new, but Mandell’s approach takes the model a step further than other stores that tend to focus on the obvious market: children. “Our mission was to develop a store that cuts across age lines, to be kid-friendly, but also teen- and adult-friendly,” says Tony Camilletti, senior vice president of JGA. “The overall result is a colorful and interactive environment that speaks to a broad age bracket." There’s something to appeal to bear-loving consumers of all ages who are young at heart. (For adult gift-giving occasions, there’s a number of offerings such as a pregnant bear and an “over-the-hill” bear.)


The retail strategy is to create a memorable experience for families and collectors, one that becomes a cherished occasion and builds lasting name-awareness for the brand. The merchandise results from the interactive process of creating one’s own custom teddy bear, complete with clothing and fashion accessories.


A mosaic-blend of saturated jewel-tones establishes the store personality. The storefront architecture takes its cue from storybook illustrations; the columns are wrapped with custom illustrated bear-themed porcelain tiles. Spirited and charming graphics breathe life into the brand. From the adorable bear head and paw print signature icons used as unique wallpaper patterns to the iconic scrolled frame elements on “department” signs, window display shadow boxes, product displays, and wash room vanity mirrors, the store creates a one-of-a-kind, fun environment.


The primary cash wrap wall features the brand logo and the Pawsenclaws story, a framed portrait of the “department store” imaginary founders Bearon Byron and Bearoness Grizella Pawsenclaws, and a framed map of Bearvely Hills. The colorful collection of wallpaper patterns establishes the departments within the department store. Fixturing is designed as furniture, such as fantasy-like armoires, hutches, and curios. The stuffing machines are disguised as grand department store elevators. Polyfiber material is fed to stuffing machines through clear acrylic tubes that span the width of ceiling so customers see the filling whoosh across the store. A trompe l’oeil mural on the rear wall simulates a “grand staircase” leading to the store’s imaginary second level, with a bear-themed grandfather clock as a focal feature. Sound chip implants for the teddy bears are recorded in private sound studios.


Someone had fun coming up with playful names for the departments that lead customers through the creative bear-making process:


Fur-nishings Department – Select plush animal skins.

Sound Studio Bee – Record custom sound chip implants.

Stuff’n Vators – Stuff plush skins (with love and kindness).

Tail-oring – Put on the finishing touches.

Salon Grizella – Fluff and pamper the plush creation in bee-hive blow dryers.

Fashion Beartiques – Select clothing, shoes, and fashion accessories.

Computer Cubs – Name new furry friend and get adoption certificate.


A vibrant primary color palette of black, white, purple, and orange is accentuated with blue, green, yellow, and red highlights throughout the store. Punctuating the white marbleized vinyl flooring is a black-and-white checker patterned central aisle peppered with tiles in the jewel-tone accent colors.


Custom merchandising collateral materials, packaging, hangers, and the carry home box were also designed to reinforce the colorful bear theme. The retail concept and environment inspire gift-giving and support the brand story (it’s also a great setting for parties!). "Kids and teens can't have too many teddy bears. The interactive nature of creating a plush animal from scratch differentiates this shopping experience from others in the mall," JGA’s Camilletti says.


The second Pawsenclaws & Co. recently opened at the Willowbrook Mall in New Jersey, and Mandell is optimistic about nationwide expansion/franchise plans that include at least 10 stores by the end of the year.


Pawsenclaws & Co. Client Team: Steve Mandell (President and CEO); Patricia Peters (President, Peters Communications)

Architect/Interior Design: JGA, Inc.

Design Team: Tony Camilletti (Senior Vice President) Mike Benincasa (Creative Director), Brian Eastman (Graphic Design Director), Beth Sinacola (Designer), Stephanie Bourdon (Color & Materials Design Manager), Mike McCahill (Project Manager), Dave Balfour (Draftsperson)

Lighting Consultant: Lighting Management, Inc.

General Contractor: Alko General Contractors

Photography: Laszlo Regos Photography


Carpet: Mohawk Commercial

Floor Tile: Architectural Systems

Laminates: Design Finishes Incorporated; Interlam

Fixtures and Furniture: The Carlson Company, Inc.

Lighting: Lightolier, Inc.; Amerlux, Inc.; 2000 Degrees

Column Surroundings: Creative Edge Master Shop

Props: Dillon Works

Sign/Graphics, Wallcovering: Décor Group

Paint: ICI Paint


Since 1971, JGA has evolved to become one of the nation's leading retail design, brand strategy, and architectural firms. JGA has built its reputation by providing retailers with the most innovative and consumer-responsive design required to compete in today's fast-paced marketplace. The firm’s expertise is in balancing space planning, brand identity, imaging, graphics, and merchandising.


Recent award winning environmental and graphic design projects include Audi Park Avenue, Cargo Hold at Ripleys Aquarium, Dickson CyberExpress (Hong Kong), Disney, Fossil, Fred Lavery Company, General Nutrition Centers, The Museum Shop at the American Museum of Natural History, Nature's Northwest, Perfumania, The Planetarium Shop at the Rose Center for Earth and Space, Rue 21, Samsung Plaza (South Korea) and Torrid. JGA's designs have been recognized internationally and published by the industry's leading magazines including: Chain Store Age, Visual Merchandising + Store Design, Display & Design Ideas, Shopping Center World, Interior Design, Interiors and Sources, and Retail Interiors (UK).

(click on pictures to enlarge)

(Photo: Laszlo Regos Photography)
Pawsenclaws & Co. is a colorful department store fantasy that stands out in its mall surroundings.

(Photo: Laszlo Regos Photography)
The black-and-white checker-patterned central aisle, scattered with jewel-tone accent tiles, leads to a trompe l'oeil "grand staircase" leading to an imaginary second floor.

(Photo: Laszlo Regos Photography)
Custom sound chip implants are recorded in Sound Studio Bee, followed by the "departments" one uses to assemble a bear.

(Photo: Laszlo Regos Photography)
A colorful collection of wallpaper patterns creates "rooms" within the department store. The computer stations are for registering teddy bear names and adoption certificates.

(Photo: Laszlo Regos Photography)
Fixturing is designed as furniture, including fantasy-like armoires, hutches, and curios.

(Photo: Laszlo Regos Photography)
Store guests "fluff and pamper" their plush creations in beehive blow dryers.

(Photo: Laszlo Regos Photography)
Detail of the "grand staircase."

(Photo: Laszlo Regos Photography)
The cash wrap features back wall graphics of the brand logo and the Pawsenclaws story with framed portraits of the imaginary founders, Bearon and Bearoness Pawsenclaws.

(Photo: Laszlo Regos Photography)
The cash wrap also sports a map of Bearvely Hills.


(Photo: Laszlo Regos Photography)
Custom merchandising materials, packaging, hangers, and the carry-home box reinforce the colorful bear-theme.

© 2002