Defunct store mascot's retirement plans dashed

Image of Target & Zellers logo Target, the Minneapolis-based U.S. retailer, announced in January 2011 that it was purchasing the store leases of the Canadian discount retail chain Zellers from the Hudson's Bay Company for $1.8 billion. Under the terms of the deal, the Zeller's chain continued to operate under that brand name throughout 2012 however, as of the time of this writing, many Zellers stores have now vanished from the retail landscape as Target begins to convert the locations to Target stores. Disappearing from the market along with the chain itself are all things associated with the brand: Zellers Pharmacy, Club Z, Zellers Family Restaurants, clothing labels such as Midtown, Cherokee and Hunt Club, and in accordance with its "everything must go" liquidation mandate, even the iconic store mascot Zeddy.

For nearly three decades Zeddy, who had been a part of the Zellers' brand advertising campaign, often appeared in community outreach efforts. It was likely apropos that Zellers asked Canadians to nominate suitable charities to adopt Zeddy. The Facebook campaign, which lasted three weeks and attracted nearly 30,000 votes, exceeded all expectations forcing organizers to narrow the field to three prospective charities: Autism Ontario, Cystic Fibrosis Canada and Camp Trillium. When the votes were tallied, Camp Trillium emerged on top winning $5,000 and the honour of becoming Zeddy's official adoptive family.

Commenting on behalf of Zellers, Debbie Ford, Senior Vice President, Merchandising & Marketing, said "Camp Trillium is a great fit for him, and I'm sure he'll be a valuable partner in helping them move their cause forward." One internet newswire source has reported that Zeddy is excited to make the move to such a great organization where, after assuming a new identity as Barry, his duties will be to help these children undergoing cancer treatment to have fun, feel special and get away from the everyday. Camp Trillium's Director of Fundraising, Fiona Fisher, said "We couldn't be more thrilled to adopt Zeddy and give him a new home. The children who go to Camp Trillium do so to get away from cancer, and just be kids. I believe they are going to fall in love with our new life-size bear, and I'm sure he will become the most exciting councillor we have!."

Having had the opportunity to meet Zeddy and discuss his future with him, I didn't get the impression his view was quite as optimistic as the prevailing corporate view which dominates the internet sources. The interview, to the best of my recollection and from a review of my notes, went something like this:

Image of Jeff and Zeddy "I'm getting a bit long in the tooth for this," Zeddy asserted, "I mean, think about it. I've been doin' this front-line grunt shit for nearly thirty years now! I was hoping my loyalty would have been rewarded with a generous severance package. I was thinking 'bout buyin' a Softail Slim and taking a road-trip. Figured I'd check out every peeler bar in the country and write a book outlining my adventures when I was done. Wanted to call it 'Zee's Softtail Guide to Bear Naked Culture'. Pretty catchy, huh?"

When questioned a bit further for his thoughts on assuming the new role as Barry at Camp Trillium, Zeddy unleashed with both smoking barrels. "Barry?" Zeddy quipped with a notable tone of sarcasm in his voice. "Can you fucking believe they want to change my name to Barry?" Clearly, Zeddy was not amused by the name change. "Barry is the guy in your science class with the plastic pocket protector for pens. Barry is the pock-faced kid cleaning the toilets at McDonald's. Barry is your proctologist or you accountant. Do I look like a fucking Barry to you?" Zeddy paused, albeit briefly, then continued with his tirade. "Dude, my name's Zee. Zee's the bartender at a seedy smoke-filled bar. Zee's the guy you buy your weed from. Zee's the bad-ass down the street with the Harley and the smokin' hot chick hangin' off his arm. No one fucks with Zee." Zeddy clenched his right fist to emphasize this point then, after pausing again briefly, he leaned back, relaxed his clenched hand, and then continued. "If you got shit that needs doin', you see Zee. If you got taxes that need doin', you see Barry."

I could only surmise, judging from Zeddy's ongoing commentary, that his decision to assume the role of Barry was based more on financial necessity than on noble cause or benevolent gesture. "Let me put it to you this way," Zeddy continued. "The reason you haven't heard of the International Brotherhood of Mascots and Furry Animal Costumed Workers is because this isn't a union gig. I can't just stroll into the Local office and expect to pick up some work. And I'm not sure if you've noticed or not, but there's not allot of demand for furry mascots out there." Zeddy, in fact, had made an excellent point. I don't think I've EVER seen a job posting whose statement of qualifications included the ability to dress as a furry animal. "Truth is, Zeddy confessed, "I need the scratch. I can't afford to retire and I'm not really qualified to do anything else. My retirement plans have been dashed. And while I'd have preferred to have toured the country on a new Hawg, smoked a bit of weed and written a book about bouncing coked-out peelers off my crotch, I suspect the only thing that will be sitting on my lap in the foreseeable future will be sick children. Life can be so cruel."

It was precisely at that moment in time that I awoke. Realizing that my entire Zeddy interview had been a terrible dream, I gained no comfort from the blunt moral lesson of my nocturnal illusion: life, indeed, can be so cruel.

Submitted by Jeff Dubois, 09 March 2013