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Santa Rosa Plaza's Build-A-Bear store to close

The good, old-fashioned teddy bear has been dealt a blow.

Build-A-Bear Workshop in Santa Rosa Plaza, where children and adults alike can fashion the custom-made stuffed animal of their dreams, is planning to close its doors for good on Jan. 27, along with about 50 other stores in the chain nationwide.

Fans of the Santa Rosa store, which became popular as a venue for creative birthday parties, were disappointed by the news.

"I'm sad. My kids love this place," said Christina Ramirez, 27, of Rohnert Park. "I really, really hope they can stay."

The shop opened in November 2010 as a temporary store at the Plaza, which is part of the reason it's leaving, said Kim Hall, area marketing director for Simon Properties. A different, permanent store will be moving into its space, but its name has not yet been released, Hall said.

"They'll be missed, but I think sometimes those different kinds of children's activities run their course," Hall said.

The chain plans to close an additional 50 to 60 stores over the next two years, said Jill Saunders, its director of public relations. Meanwhile, the chain recently opened a half-dozen new stores with an updated design.

"The new concept takes the Build-A-Bear Workshop experience to the next level by combining the love of a teddy bear with the best of innovative digital technology," Saunders said in an email.

Competing with more technologically savvy toys may have been tough for a teddy bear, as children's attention drifted to electronic games and digitally enhanced toys like the popular "Furby" dolls.

"The younger kids are so much more exposed to electronics and things like that, but I think parents like the nostalgia of bringing them back to something more simple," Hall said.

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