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December 18, 2003 Story from Lititz Record/Kathy Blankenbiller, Feature Writer, Copyright 2004 by Lancaster Newspapers

LITITZ – The operating room is filled with energizing music, and furry faces of all shapes and sizes gaze down on the table where Dr. Hanna performs her miracles.  No matter the cause of the injury, cherished stuffed animals are tenderly restored and cleaned by Hanna Hach of Hanna Bruce Bears & Teddy Hospital at 120 E. Main St., Lititz.
 Hanna Hach’s story is one of natural talent, love and dedication.  Married and living in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio, Hanna Hach worked a relentless 60 hours a week as a computer programmer/technical support person, and was on call each weekend.  Still, in 1997 she managed to start up a small sideline business in her home, and Internet-based Company that proved more successful than she had expected.  By December 1999 and 100 customers later, Hach decided to say good-bye to her grueling 60+ hours per week job and turned her sideline into a thriving, full-time career.
 “When I first started, I had created my own line of teddy bears,” said Hach.  “I think it came naturally, really.  My mom is an artist and I remember sitting next to her, watching her sewing things; she always made all our stuffed toys.  Although I never sewed anything back then, it stuck with me.  Finally, at age 30 I began sewing a few miscellaneous things, first clothes and then on to the teddy bears.”
 The little company took off like wildfire, orders and materials stacked and packed in almost every room, forcing Hach and her husband into the realization that it was time to make the move to a storefront.
 “We knew it was time when three-quarters of the house was the business and only a quarter of the house was living space.” Admitted Hach with a chuckle.  “We talked it over and decided to move closer to my older brother, Chris Dutton, who lives here in Lititz.”
 Dutton, employed by the U.S. Air Force and stationed at Middletown, found the office space for his sister and she signed the lease in late August 2003, site unseen.  “It’s nice to actually have office space.” Hach said, a note of relief in her voice.  “This location is perfect.  My brother told me I’d love it and he was right.  Not only did I feel great when I walked in, but when my husband saw it he told me it felt like I was supposed to be here.  Ever since I’ve moved here it’s been fantastic.  The people are just so friendly and welcoming.”
 Entering “Hanna Bruce Bears & Teddy Hospital,” named after her great-grandmother, the feeling imparted is more that of visiting a friend’s living room than a business that boasts customers from all corners of the world, including the Philippines, Japan, Canada, and Germany.  Hach has had customers referred to her by the giants in the industry, Steiff and Paddington Bears, just to drop a few important names.  She has worked on those VIP bears as well as stuffed animals made by Gund, Merrythought, Ganz, Hermann, Helvetic, Knickerbocker, Chiltern, Chad Valley and J.K. Farnell.
 Since Hach went full time in 1999, she has worked on 1100 stuffed animals, from teddy bears to alligators, pelicans, bunnies, bears, monkeys and more.  “I do almost any type of stuffed animal, synthetic, mohair, plush,” said Hach.  “But I do not work with any real fur bears, mink, shearling, hides, or what I call ‘pajama’ bears; you know, the ones that have fur paws, fur head and the body is cotton.  I WILL convert them to an all fur bear, though.  Oh, and I should mention that I do NOT do doll repairs.”
 Patients come to Hach daily, most stories of their various injuries fairly similar.  “Some of the stuffed animals have just been very well-loved, while others have been the subject of the family dog’s playtime,” explained Hach.  “When the patient is brought or sent in, I perform an examination and then prepare a formal estimate.  When approved, the animal goes into “surgery” and is cleaned up, re-stitched, restuffed, eyes or noses replaced, joints fixed, whatever needs to be done.”  When the patient has recovered, Hach calls the bear’s parents to come pick it up or to confirm shipping it home, and formal discharge papers are drawn up.
 “This is a very busy time of the year, of course,” said Hach.  “Lots of people enjoy displaying teddy bears for Christmas so they send or bring them to me for a little ‘spa special’, to spruce them up before their holiday debuts.”  Evidence of Hach’s talents is evident, letters of appreciation adorning a side wall.  Notes from satisfied customers hang there, some in shaky, crayon letters, others neatly typed but ALL filled with compliments and gratitude.  “Let me tell you something, when I was doing tech support no one EVER thanked me for fixing their computer; it meant they had to go back to work,” said Hach, shaking her head.  “With THIS job, however, all the joy I get back tenfold.  My customers are always so nice and so grateful.  It’s very rewarding.”  One story sticks in Hach’s heart, the trials and tribulations of Boo-Boo Kitty.  “I’ll never forget that one,” said Hach, eyebrows raised.  “The animal had been left outside and the father had run over it with a lawnmower.  He called me and I could hear a child crying in the background. ‘Please, do whatever you can,’ he told me.  When it arrived in an envelope, all I had to work with was a big pile of stuffing, green grass stains all over and no ‘before’ picture to go by.  That’s where imagination comes in, I guess.  Anyway, I put it back together and sent him home.  A week later I received a photo from the family with the little boy holding Boo-Boo Kitty, smiling from ear-to-ear.  See?  There’s always hope.  You may think that a stuffed animal is beyond hope but that is absolutely NOT true.  There’s always hope.  Bring it to me; I’ll gladly prove it to you.”
 For the past four years Hach has made teddy bears for the graduating senior girls in the Warwick Soccer Association.  “On the front of the teddy bear I embroider a little soccer ball, the word, ‘Warwick’ and the year they graduate; on the back I embroider their first name.  That’s usually my big order in April,” Hach stated.  “I’m hoping to branch into other sports teams and other schools as well.  I made the same type of bear for my brother’s military unit.  The Family Readiness Group asked me to donate a bear for their silent auction to raise money for the families.  My brother gets me a patch from his unit and I put that on the front of the bear.”
 Dr. Hanna is in “surgery” most of the day, so hours at Hanna Bruce Bears & Teddy Hospital are by appointment only, “So I can concentrate on each patient without interruption,” she explains.  And while most of her patients date back 30, 40 or even 50 years, a few, like a 104-year-old Teddy Roosevelt bear, need a little extra attention.  “It’s so rewarding when you hand the reconstructed, cleaned, animal back to the owner and you see the smile on their face.  That’s what makes everything I do worthwhile,” explained Hach.  “I have always felt that when I leave the world I want to know I’ve left something good behind.  Now I know I’ve accomplished that.  Every day I go to work, I’ve made someone smile.”
 Hanna Bruce Bears & Teddy Hospital is located at 120 E. Main St., Lititz.  Hours are by appointment only.  For more information call 626-1180 or via email at teddydoctor@hannabrucebears.com.  Visit online at www.hannabrucebears.com.


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