Maybe it's a guy thing. The "Build-A-Bear" concept never really made sense to me -- why would kids stand in line to make a stuffed animal at the mall? Yet a related concept, covered by the New York Times today, looks perfectly reasonable to me: shops where kids can go to build custom plastic cars. The stores, called Ridemakerz, are related to the Build-A-Bear workshops -- in fact, Build-A-Bear founder Maxine Clark invested $3 million in Larry Andreini's concept for the "build a toy car" shops, plus an estimated $15 million in support, according to the Times story.
Fathers and sons make up 70 percent of his target audience. Here's what they can expect at the Ridemakerz store. Customers select a chassis type (street or monster); body styles (stock or custom, a Ridemakerz brand hot rod, a Ford Mustang GT or Dodge Ram pickup, to name a few options); paint schemes; sound effects (for example, sirens or race sounds) and style of locomotion (free wheel or radio control). After the 10- to 12-inch cars are assembled, there are ample customizing and accessorizing options: tire treads, grille guards, side pipes, snowboard racks and decals. Mr. Andreini estimates that a fully tricked-out vehicle will run about $75, including $25 for radio control. For the budget-minded, there's a stock tuner car for $12.Seems like a neat idea, although one analyst quoted in the story noted that "Hard plastic isn't as inherently profitable as cloth."