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Build-A-Bear Workshop founder retiring as CEO

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- The CEO of St. Louis-based Build-A-Bear Workshop Inc. is retiring, 16 years after she founded the kid-friendly chain that now has more than 400 outlets worldwide.

Sixty-three-year-old Maxine Clark — who calls herself the Chief Executive Bear — announced Thursday she'll remain as CEO until a successor is found. She'll also remain on the company's board of directors.

Clark founded Build-a-Bear in 1997, a year after resigning as president of Topeka-based Payless ShoeSource. She was also a former executive of the old Venture Stores and the May Co.'s Famous-Barr stores.

Build-A-Bear stores allow customers of all ages to design customized teddy bears and other animals, which are stuffed, dressed and accessorized before their eyes.

Clark is a trustee of Washington University and a national board member of Teach for America.