He's been a forest ranger, fireman, magician, astronaut, groom, pilot, and arctic explorer. But 2007 is the year Macy's (formerly Dayton's and Marshall Field's) will formally retire the always popular Santa Bear.
"It's time to stop because I'm running out of room on my stairway," Elizabeth Kleber says from her Edina living room sofa, packed full of bears' past. "You can't really pass up a Teddy Bear no matter who you are, and not think it's sweet," Kleber said.
Kleber is the editor of the "SB Newsletter", a quarterly report she started in 1995 to keep collectors informed. "There are probably about 4 or 5,000 people that have every single bear."
You can buy individual bears at Macy's stores starting Tuesday, November 6. A spokesperson for the company says some stores might receive a shipment or two by the weekend.
Thursday morning, 2,000 collector's edition family sets went on sale for $175. Collectors, including Kleber, jammed the Macy's phone lines.
"I was on hold for an hour and 20 minutes before I got through," she said. "I said are you busy, she (the operator) said ma'am there are over 800 people waiting on the line right now."
Give Kleber a year between 1985 and 2007, and in a split second, she can tell you what outfit the corresponding bear wore that year. She can tell you when Santa Bear was married, when he had kids, and when he went to the moon.
"There's a lot of stress involved in getting a Santa Bear every year, and once you start your collection you want to keep it complete," Kleber explains.
She stacks them on her stairs, her dining room table, and her living room sofas. It's a yearly ritual for the Kleber family the day after Halloween. That tradition will continue, it's just the collection will no longer grow. "How can you not call this an obsession?" she asks.
The final Santa Bear will be clad in pajamas, just like he was in 1990.
(Copyright 2007 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)