TRURO, N.S. - Truro has gone to the animals as a new company provides motorized animals for kids to ride around the Truro Mall.
Stuffy Riders, a new business in the mall, rents large motorized stuffed animals to kids and adults who want an alternate and unique way to get around the mall.
While the idea of Stuffy Riders is relatively new to North America, the technology and idea has been around for decades.
“Animal riders have been a thing in China for the last 30 years apparently, but have only been in North America for the last four to five years,” said John Manning, operations manager for Stuffy Riders.
After becoming popular in Western Canada, Stuffy Riders made the move to the Maritimes, opening its first kiosk in the East at the Truro Mall in February.
Since then, the rolling stuffed animals quickly became popular with both kids and parents visiting the mall.
“I’ve never seen a response like this before, it’s like a phenomenon,” said Manning.
“I had a guy in his eighties who went for at least four rides around the Truro Mall when I was there a few weeks ago. People of all ages seem to enjoy them and teenagers love them. The teenage girls get it right away, but the boys are a bit more hesitant. Once they get on they have a great time though.”
The animals operate much like a motorized bicycle, with power put to the wheels with a wheelchair motor and a small car battery. Riders sit atop the animals and use a button on the handlebars to move the stuffed animals forward. The frame of the animals can hold up to 400 lbs., allowing parents to ride along with their kids.
“It’s like a huge pillow on the front of these things, so they are very safe,” said Manning.
“Depending on the child, we’re allowed to change the speed of the animals. A kid might want to go faster, but if they aren’t going to drive properly we don’t allow them. We slow things down for the smaller kids and give a little more for the bigger kids.”
The animals are rented on a timed-run basis, and start at $8 for 10 minutes. Any longer and the cost drops from $0.80 a minute to $0.50 a minute. The machines also have a GPS system installed in them to ensure people don’t remove them from the mall.
Shortly after opening in Truro, the company was invited to open another location at the County Fair Mall in Summerside, P.E.I., and will be opening a location at a mall in Saint John, N.B., next week. Future openings are possible in Moncton and Bridgewater.
“Since there was no one down here yet, we knew there was a big opportunity for us in the Maritimes,” said Manning.
“Malls are struggling right now because shoppers just want to go to the big box, stand-alone stores, so the malls have to compete with that. So when you find a place that’s receptive to the idea, it’s a win-win – we get in there and we drive more customers to the mall.”