The polar bear statue on West Main Street, a beacon for late-night revelers in search of a photo op, has a new owner and a new home.
On Christmas Eve, Barbara Pasnak hired a small crane and moved the 3,500-pound, cast-concrete statue across the street to her shop, Terra Gypsy, which she describes as a “boho, hippie, neo-pagan boutique.”
Pasnak bought the bear because she wanted to draw attention to her business, she says: “I think it’s working.”
At the bear’s former residency, the owner of the apartments and his tenants say they’re glad to be rid of the statue, which has carried innumerable people on its back.
“Every single tenant had said it was more of a nuisance than anything because of its proximity to drunken weekenders,” Christian Tefel says.
The bear came with the apartment building Tefel purchased in 2008, he says, where it had stood for a little more than a dozen years.
Regardless of attaining landmark status, the bear wasn’t treated kindly. It’s been defaced, humped, ridden and tipped over by rowdy patrons exiting nearby bars.
The bear has been put in “many compromising positions by people who thought it would be funny to stick their butt in a polar bear’s nose,” Tefel says. He transferred ownership of the bear in exchange for Pasnak making a $100 donation to the Virginia Breast Cancer Foundation and paying the roughly thousand dollars in moving expenses.
Despite the bear’s downsides, Tefel says he’s happy it will continue to serve as a neighborhood attraction. “It has more social media hits and pages than I do personally,” he says.
Pasnak and her husband, Kevin Offutt, built a concrete pad to anchor the statue -- so no more tipping. They also plan to give the bear a fresh coat of paint.
The bear originally was placed on Main Street by Charlie Francis, whose business, North Wind Mechanical Systems, was headquartered in the building. He says the bear was the company’s mascot, but he couldn’t afford to move it when he sold the building.
Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated Christian Tefel's first name.