Tambo’s own teddy bear collector, Mardi Noonan began her collection of Tambo Teddies in 1997 when she purchased her first bear called Bessie. There are two Tambo Teddy bear families and Bessie was a very early member of the Toby bear family, number 2301. Created from a short grey wool pelt, Bessie with her very squashed-in face appealed and Mardi’s bear collection began.
Claiming not to be a crazy person, Mardi tries not to collect things but when the former owner of Tambo Teddies began creating limited edition bears and each design was named after a different founding family from Tambo, Mardi had to have the very first bear in each series. Whenever a new limited edition range came out, Mary, the previous owner of the business, would check to see if this teddy bear collector still wanted the first one and in Mardi’s words, ‘Of course I did, I can’t start and then stop’.
There were only ever 100 of each of the nine Tambo Teddy Limited Edition bears made and Mardi snaffled the first of each because they were different and unique. The favourite bear in her collection is a large, jointed chocolate coloured bear, the first in the Bredhauer family of Teddies, he has a growler in his tummy and makes a deep rumbling growl as you tip him. Every Tambo Teddy made is individually numbered and in the style of a true collector Mardi also collected bears with significant numbers, ‘or tried to! I have bear 9999 because someone else got bear 10,000.’
Tambo Teddies are a bit of a Noonan family tradition, ‘everyone in the family has a Tambo Teddy somewhere in the house.’ Mardi’s two sons had little Tom Thumb Tambo Teds that they used to sleep with, but now the boys are 14 and 15, these little comforters have been put away for the next generation. Mardi’s mother has also bought many bears over the years but has only kept a few for herself as she has given most of them to her grandchildren.
Reflecting on Tambo Teddies Mardi says, ‘I think the initiative originally taken from three friends was a brave and brilliant leap of faith. Mary, Helen and Charm were the first Tambo Teddy ladies and they made some frightful mistakes but quickly learnt from them and they created these wonderful teddies that were the beginning of putting Tambo on the map. More recently, the next group of three ladies who have bought the business have taken it from strength to strength. With the help of the digital age and some great marketing, the business of wool and a humble bear continues to grow and further mark Tambo as a must see on people’s travels.’
Mardi has a slight ulterior motive for wishing Tambo Teddies well as she owns the café situated right next door. Both businesses benefit from customers either coming to visit the teddies and smelling the coffee or just dropping in for lunch and wandering next door to see what’s on offer in the teddy bear shop. As a teddy bear collector and a coffee specialist Mardi is able to promote both businesses in our small country town of Tambo.