Bradford has had its share of interesting visitors, even the furry variety, but there’s a new character in town and this caniform is here to stay.
Coco the bear, who has an Instagram (@cocothebearbradford), was seen checking out the Welcome to Bradford sign — and sharing antics with residents via Facebook. The bear will be a fun fixture in the Bradford Chocolate Factory once the old-fashioned candy store opens its doors.
Coco is the brainchild of Greg Ross, the chairman for Globalwest Group, which is a partner in the Bradford Chocolate Factory. Bradford residents Tim Gigliotti and Bob Pascarella are the other partners in the business.
“I’m from Bradford originally, and we always had a bear situation in Bradford, getting on people’s porches and everything else,” said Ross. “When I was young, we went to the dump at the state park and watched the bears.
“I thought you know what, McDonald’s has Ronald McDonald, Geico has a lizard… why don’t we have a bear?”
Coco’s name is related to his sweet connection. He was custom-made by a company in New Jersey with his seated position in mind — and his job as a photogenic welcoming committee.
“The only reason I chose an 8-foot bear — when you have a small bear sitting on a bench or in a chair, you kind of lose it. When (Coco) is sitting, he is five foot tall. He is a good size to take a picture,” Ross said.
The bear will take up residence on a red bench in the entryway to The Bradford Chocolate Factory prior to the store’s anticipated opening.
“Coco will be in the store for the grand opening and ribbon cutting on Nov. 8. They will probably have a soft opening before that,” Ross said.
Once there, Ross noted, Coco may dine on a steady diet of sweets and have a hard time going anywhere in the future.
Coco’s area of the store will also be the focus of a live camera, so that visitors to the store can let relatives know to watch for them as they visit with the furry doorman at the local candy store. The camera can be accessed through the store’s website at www.bradfordchocolatefactory.com.
Before Coco commits to his bench, he will be touring the town and is planning to share some of the highlights of the beary special tour through the Instagram page. Ross said the bear has about a dozen places that he wants to visit.
“He might go to state park, and he might visit the bridge. I heard he may be out at Zippo today, but I’m not sure. We will have to see what FB has tomorrow,” Ross said Thursday evening.
Area residents are encouraged to keep track of where Coco goes, as there may be a contest in the future where the information will come in handy.
Coco won’t be the only new furry face in town with sweet connections. Ross explained that another, more active bear will become a familiar face at functions in the city in the future.
“He has a son, Coco Jr., who is a living person in a costume like you’d see at Disney.
Coco Jr. will be out and about to go to places for charity events and will be working with kids at the hospital,” he said. “It’s a great thing to see kids light up.”
Ross noted that the costume is designed to fit someone between 5’9” and 6’2”, meaning Coco Jr. will be the same size as his father.
Progress on the store is coming along. Ross noted the store’s wall of memorabilia, designed to highlight the history of candy stores in the area, is awaiting some memorabilia from DeSelle’s. An ongoing partnership with Sally Costik, curator of the Bradford Landmark Society, has yielded advertisements from the past that will be displayed as well.
The Goldenwest Group has two vacancies out of the 41 properties they currently own in Bradford. The storefront at 7 Main Street remains vacant and the former Atlantic Broadband office is also awaiting a new tenant.
Farmers Insurance has opted to move into Goldenwest Group’s property at 93 Main Street on Sept. 1.