Escaping to a cabin in the cool woods is the best feeling for those of us who live in the heat of the desert! Having a cabin of your own is quite a treat and, quite frankly, a dream held by many desert dwellers. Once you finally snag that perfect getaway cabin, whether you’re going to rent it out or keep it to yourself, you’ll want to decorate. The number one piece of décor you must have is a carved bear from Bears “R” Us. It just won’t be an authentic mountain cabin without one!
Growing up, I would go with my parents to visit a friend’s cabin in Ruidoso every year around Thanksgiving. I remember the many wooden bears they had as well as the ones sitting on the porches of the other cabins that lined the road as we drove up the mountain. My family never passed up the opportunity to buy a few carved wooden bears at Bears “R” Us, either for themselves or for a gift.
Now, years later, I reached out to Bears “R” Us and met Aggie Mendoza, the chainsaw artist behind many of these iconic wooden bears. Aggie has been an artist for 25 years, deftly wielding her chainsaw and other power tools to create beguiling bears and a wide range of other critters to decorate your home and yard.
Aggie was working at a beauty salon when she met a couple that did chainsaw art in California. She was fascinated, and when the artists offered to teach Aggie and her then-partner, they jumped at the chance. Once Aggie got the hang of it, she was hooked. When they arrived back in Ruidoso, they bought the equipment and started carving their first bears.
“We decided to go to the side of the road by Walmart to see if anyone would buy them — and we sold all 18 that we had made right away,” says Aggie. “We were so excited that I quit my job and we ended up renting a retail space across from that same Walmart.”
Later, their original teachers invited them back to California, and they stayed for about five years to sharpen their carving skills and learn different techniques. When they moved back to Ruidoso, Aggie opened her own store and Bears “R” Us was born. Aggie has been the lead chainsaw artist and owner of Bears “R” Us since opening it 18 years ago.
Her talents aren’t limited to carving bears. “I can carve anything. Any design and any size someone asks me to do, I can do it,” says Aggie. Her store is full of unique carvings such as aliens, raccoons, birds, horses, religious statues, mermaids, and turtles. The aliens are even featured in the television show Roswell. You name it, she has it — or can create it for you!
She has also started passing her knowledge along to family members by bringing them to the store and teaching them how to carve. Some of them now have their own carving businesses in Flagstaff and Scottsdale.
During the COVID-19 shutdown, Aggie had to get creative to keep her business busy. She was able to keep selling firewood, but over the years, she had received many requests from people wanting carvings done at their homes. Aggie decided it was a perfect way to keep her art and business alive. She started reaching out to those inquiries and now her custom at-home carvings are becoming popular.
“I am currently working on an 11-foot wizard at a home in El Paso, Texas. Once I am done with it, it will be the biggest sculpture I have ever made,” says Aggie. “COVID made me think outside the box and get out of my comfort zone. I was scared to do big sculptures at first, but now I know I am more than capable. My customers trust me to create something amazing and that is the best feeling.”
Her next projects include an 11-foot bulldog for Artesia High School and a carving of Red T. Hawk, the El Paso International Airport’s mascot. Aggie was chosen from a pool of artists to do the airport sculpture and was proud to be chosen, especially since she is one of very few female chainsaw artists in the area.
Next time you’re in Ruidoso, be sure to stop into Bears “R” Us and say “hi” to Aggie and pick out a wooden chainsaw-carved bear for your new cabin. Or better yet, schedule a custom carving with Aggie and get a one-of-a-kind piece to display at your new getaway.
Can’t visit but still want a chainsaw-carved wooden bear from Ruidoso? Head to woodenbearsruidoso.com/shop to pick out the perfect one and have it shipped right to your door. Aggie packs them up and ships them out herself.
Some items you will find:
Small wooden bear with a welcome sign (7 inches) – $35
Without the welcome sign – $20
Bear on a swing (10 inches) – $65
Light brown cedar bear with welcome sign (31 inches) – $350
Bears ‘R’ Us
26159 US-70, Ruidoso
Story by Olivia Belcher • Photography by Cheryl Fallstead and courtesy
Originally published in Neighbors magazine
Posted by Ruidoso.com