Story City’s Chase and Charlie offers custom design, minky soft dolls

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When new customers pick up a teddy bear, lamb or rag doll made by Chase and Charlie for the first time, they tend to rave about how incredibly soft and cuddly they are.

Laura Severson is the creative force and owner of the Story City-based company that she runs from a studio in her home.

She started her business in 2018 with her sister, Stephanie Unruh from Nevada.

“We’re both creative, so we decided to have a side business,” said Severson, who also works full-time as a foundation coordinator at Bethany Life in Story City.

The business is named after Severson’s son, Charlie, and Unruh’s daughter, Chase.

In early 2020, Severson’s sister had to step back from the business as her family built a new home, and Laura decided to forge ahead on her own.

“It’s been an amazing creative outlet for me, and I really enjoy doing it,” she said. “Working at the nursing home was quite stressful in 2020, so I took this time to ask myself what I really wanted to do.”

Charlie Severson poses with a teddy bear made by his mother, Laura Severson, owner of Chase and Charlie.  The company is named after Charlie and his cousin Chase.

The company started with ultra-soft baby blankets, but Severson was also interested in making stuffed animals.

“I started working on patterns for it, and it became a great way to come home and relax,” she said.

The first new product was a ragdoll-style teddy bear, with lanky arms and legs that make it perfect for a young child to grasp.

Severson branched out from there and, inspired by her Christian faith, added a lamb to the product line.

“I tried to make things that would be a nice baptism gift or a gift for a special occasion,” she said.

She uses similar body styles to create the animals as well as dolls.

One product she calls a love is a soft blanket body and head of a bear, lamb or doll.

“It’s something that’s perfect for little hands. It combines the softness of the blanket with just a bit of the dolliness,” Severson explained.

Creative Endeavors sells Chase + Charlie brand dolls, stuffed animals and blankets, which are handmade by Story City's Laura Severson.

Chase and Charlie products are on sale at Creative Endeavors in Story City

Severson started out with an Etsy store and the bears quickly became a popular item.

But shopping online doesn’t do the products justice, she says, because smelling them is believing them.

“I use the most luxurious, softest, minky Shannon brand fabrics,” she said. “The cost of the fabric makes them quite expensive items, but they’re completely handmade and they’re made from one of the best fabrics out there.

“I could use cheaper material, but I want it to be something that will hold up and something special that someone will cling to forever.”

Chase and Charlie products are available at Creative Endeavours, a retail store in downtown Story City, as well as on the Chase and Charlie website, chaseandcharlie.com.

After:Creative Endeavors, Simply Mae’s Boutique Collaborate in Story City’s Downtown District

A pile of soft dolls, lambs, blankets and teddy bears fill a shelf in Laura Severson's studio in Story City.  Severson owns Chase and Charlie, which specializes in handmade ragdoll-style creations.

“Customers who buy locally get about 30% off the cost of buying online because I don’t have to charge shipping,” Severson said. “Also, I pack and wrap all online orders, so I also save that cost when people shop locally.”

She is also looking for other retail businesses to sell her products.

Bringing its products into Creative Endeavors in downtown Story City was a game-changer for Severson.

“I saw they were opening and they wanted to connect with local artisans, so I took the opportunity to reach out to them,” she said of Christina Morton and Cassie Dewey, the mother-daughter duo who own Creative Endeavors. “They were like, ‘Oh, absolutely!’ It’s been nice for the community members, so you can get your hands on my products.”

Severson can also do custom embroidery on its own products or on items that customers bring to it.

A platypus was one of Laura Severson's custom orders at Chase and Charlie.  She designed the plush toy based on a children's book about the creature.

Upbringing taught Severson confidence and creativity

Severson credits his upbringing with giving him the confidence and creativity to run his own business.

“I grew up on a farm and my parents did everything. Whatever the project, they figured out how to do it, and then they did it,” she said. “It instilled in me that I can figure out how to do it.”

Severson grew up between Colo and Nevada. His parents are Bob and Liz Meimann. Liz has a long arm quilting business in her house called A Quilted Memory.

The steps to creating a Chase and Charlie teddy bear are documented by company owner Laura Severson.

Severson wasn’t necessarily interested in sewing as a child. But when her own kids started craving Halloween costumes and that sort of thing, she decided to go back to the basics her mom taught her.

Severson learns photography to market her products online as well as the many technical capabilities of the machines she uses to cut her designs and sew her embroidery designs. Its equipment has 10 needles, which makes it possible to carry out multicolored embroideries.

“It brings me the thrill of creating something unique, and people are reaching out to me with custom requests,” Severson said.

For example, the author of a children’s book about a platypus placed a custom order with Chase and Charlie to design and create a plush form of his main character.

Severson also creates memory bears, using a family’s material — perhaps a sweater or a dress — to create a stuffed animal in honor of their loved one.

“Recently I created three bears for a girl who wanted to give something special to her grandchildren,” she said. “It was special to be able to create those memories so they would have them forever.”

Laura Severson, owner of Chase and Charlie, also creates memory bears, which are made from special fabric provided by families in honor of loved ones.

Laura and her husband, Grant, have three boys, Jerry, 10, Henry, 7, and Charlie, 4. All the boys are interested in the operation of the machines and software that their mother uses. And they are his personal discussion group for his new products.

“When I made the lamb, I gave it to them and said, ‘OK, what do you guys think?'” she said.

They’re honest with their reviews, but they’re always interested in keeping the ones they reject, she says.

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