Backyard birders’ store comes to roost in Richland
David and Hanna Goss knew they were on to something when they started feeding their backyard birds with seed sold by Wild Birds Unlimited Nature Shop.
“Our neighbors started complaining because the birds weren’t coming over to their house anymore,” Hanna Goss said.
Apparently, word of beak spread throughout the bird community.
It’s just one of the many reasons the Gosses, married 25 years, have decided to open a Wild Birds Unlimited Nature Shop franchise, the first of its kind in Eastern Washington.
The store, located at 474 Keene Road in Richland in the strip mall adjacent to Yoke’s Fresh Market, planned a soft opening Oct. 14 and grand opening Nov. 3.
The name Wild Birds Unlimited offers visions of a bird store filled with parrots and parakeets.
“Everyone thinks that,” Hanna Goss said. “That would be the Captive Birds Unlimited.”
No. This store is all about feeding birds.
The store will offer fresh, high-quality food for birds, other necessities for backyard bird feeding, and quality nature gifts.
Backyard birding is the second most popular hobby in the United States, right behind gardening, according to the Department of Interior’s National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation.
And there is big money in it.
Nearly 53 million people feed birds or watch wildlife in their backyard; $6.9 billion is spent annually on bird feeding and wildlife watching; and $5 billion is spent annually on bird seed and wildlife feed, according to the Wild Birds Unlimited website.
Jim Carpenter understood how big backyard bird feeding was 36 years ago.
Carpenter founded Wild Birds in 1981 in Indianapolis as one of the first bird feeding stores in North America.
Today, Carpenter is president and CEO of the company that has more than 300 franchise stores.
How the Gosses got involved was through a phone call from a friend, who said she was going to own a franchise.
David Goss looked up the company’s website and became intrigued by the franchise idea.
“And we’ve always fed the birds,” said David Goss, who had taken an early retirement after 25 years in higher education.
The couple moved from the North Carolina region to the Tri-Cities more than two years ago so Hanna Goss could take a communications specialist job with a company.
“I took an early retirement and we moved here,” said David Goss, who had been looking for something to do. “So now what? Our friend’s call came at a perfect time. We checked out the first store. It was nice. Then we checked out the next one. It was nice too.”
The couple have spent over a year doing their research, training and preparing for this new adventure.
“We started looking at it in August of 2016,” said Hanna Goss, who will fill in on the weekends while her husband works as the full-time manager. “We got approved the weekend after Thanksgiving. It was a lot of work between August and November. We looked at this (store) space the first week of January. We went to 11 stores and talked to 12 owners. Just about every person said they’d do it again.”
Franchise requirements indicate owners must have a minimum net worth of $300,000 and liquid capital of $40,000 to $50,000. Startup costs range from $146,000 to $228,000, according to the company’s website.
Four percent of gross sales from a franchise goes to royalties, and half a percent of gross sales go to the advertising fund.
The average gross sales for stores open a full year was $541,755 in 2016.
The couple did franchise-owner training in Carmel, Indiana, then got hands-on training at a store in Billings, Montana.
They vetted the company and liked what they saw.
“Year after year, it’s been one of the top franchises in the country,” Hanna Goss said.
One of the reasons is because of the product.
Apparently, birds are picky eaters. And most of the bird food sold in big bags at the box stores just isn’t that great.
“It’s just filler,” Hanna Goss said. “I’ve found sticks, twigs and rocks. They’ll kick it off, then it becomes weeds. Just how much of it is filler? All of ours is 100 percent good.”
For example, her husband said, “we have special blends for quail. We want to help people enjoy the hobby. We want to help them solve problems, such as how to keep squirrels out of the bird food. And we can do that.”
And yes, it is a serious hobby.
“We know of people who drive to Coeur d’Alene to get good bird seed,” Hanna Goss said.
That’s because before this week, the closest Wild Birds Unlimited Nature Shop franchise was in the north Idaho city.
“There are 11 on the west side of the state,” David Goss said. “One is coming to Wenatchee.”
But the Gosses hope to eventually add a store in Spokane, where they have the right of first refusal there.
First things first. The Gosses want to get Tri-Citians to share their love of backyard birds.
“We’re connecting people with nature,” Hanna Goss said. “One thing I’m excited about, is my backyard is an extension of my indoor space. We’re going to be able to provide some alternatives for people in their backyards. Service is going to be one thing that sets us apart.”
Her husband agreed.
“People have gotten in touch with us, wondering when we’re open,” he said. “Our customer shopping experience is not like most retail shops. The customer comes in already happy. What we try to do is share what we know about birds. It’s something we can provide to enhance their feeding of birds.”
The two had to complete training to become certified birdfeeding specialists (their three employees are in the process of training). Certified birdfeeding specialists can help customers attract what they want according to their yard and habitat.
That can be a lot of birds.
The average backyard is visited by 15 to 20 bird species. But a bird-friendly backyard can attract upwards of 60 different bird species.
David and Hanna Goss, the Tri-Cities’ newest bird whisperers, stand ready to help.
“People connect with birds almost like pets. They become attached,” David Goss said. “I’m excited. I’m looking forward to getting the seed in the store.”
Wild Birds Unlimited Nature Shop is at 474 Keene Road. It open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.