Nicole Bostic, owner of the kid-friendly store Sugar Bear’s, wanted to be part of the renewal of the White Sulphur Springs area following the devastating flooding that happened there in 2016.
Twenty-three people were killed and upwards of 1,500 homes and schools were damaged in southern West Virginia during the historic flooding.
“After the floods and everything, I wanted to see my hometown come back,” Bostic said. “There’s this huge renaissance and rejuvenation in the White Sulphur area."
Sugar Bear’s is a build your own bear type of store where customers can come in and stuff, dress and adopt a new bear of their choice. The business opened its doors in May.
Bostic had previously worked in a similar store when she lived in Gatlinburg, Tenn., several years ago. She thought the concept was a great idea. However, she wanted to do things a little differently if she ever got the chance to open her own business.
“They just did the bears,” she said. “I always thought this store could go one step bigger,” she added.
Soon enough, Bostic’s business plans were in motion.
Bostic knew she wanted to add colorful books and nostalgic candies to her business – and she did just that. The brightly colored welcoming store is lined with a wide array of new and nostalgic candies.
Guests can buy anything from a Kit-Kat bar to tiny wax bottles filled with sugary liquid syrup — an item that takes many patrons back to their own childhood.
They can also buy a white sheet of crisp, sugary candy buttons that have been around for ages, or some of the newer candy options like astronaut food, which is a Neapolitan ice cream candy that is freeze dried.
Bostic says she was very picky about what items she offered in her store, as she wanted to offer her customers only the best.
“I did a lot of market research, and I found great vendors,” she said.
All of the build your own bears she sells are “high quality” and “super soft and cuddly,” she says.
“I worked really hard to find good vendors that were giving good products,” she said. “I have more than 40 different animals from sloths to dragons to the West Virginia black bear and unicorn,” Bostic explained.
Currently, a unicorn with wings is the most popular option among her girl customers and the boys seem to love the T-Rex dinosaur or shark.
“You pick your animal and can put a sound or smell in it and stuff it,” she said.
A popular scent among Sugar Bear’s infant customers is lavender.
“I have lavender which is amazing for little babies because it’s so calming,” she said. “The most popular is cotton candy or bubble gum.”
Other scent options include butterscotch, chocolate, butter popcorn or caramel.
After a customer customizes and stuffs their new furry friend, an outfit is the finishing touch. Customers can purchase a large variety of clothing and shoe options to dress their new bear in like the cowboy outfit for $16 – which includes a shirt, denim chaps, scarf and a hat. Cowboy boots can be added on for an additional $5.
Bostic says her goal is to keep her products affordable so any parent can afford to shop in her store.
“In the area, there is nothing for kids. There is no cool toy stores or anything anymore now that Toys R’ Us closed. You have to go to Roanoke or Charleston to do what I do.”
Bostic was pretty sure that a kid’s store would do well in her hometown. Her business has officially been open for about three months and she says she was spot on. Business and the community have been great, and she couldn’t be happier, she says.
“Some people, by the time they drive to Roanoke and have to get lunch, that’s financially out of their range for a lot of people. I wanted it to be an affordable place locally for kids to come,” she said.
“I’m really excited. This is like my dream… To be a business owner. To come back home and be a part of my community,” she said, holding back tears.
“I want it to be a place that a kid can be a kid."
Sugar Bear’s is located at 719 E. Main St. in White Sulphur Springs.
The business has a party room for birthdays and special events and has the capability for setting up at mobile events.
For more information, call 304-956-2503 or visit Sugar Bear’s-White Sulphur Springs on Facebook.