Wildbirds Unlimited

This business is literally for the birds
Story and photos by Gary Bégin
June in North Central Washington is the perfect time to go birding, but first, you'll want to visit your local "bird whisperer" and he means business - in a flighty sort of way.
The Wild Birds Unlimited Nature Shop franchise territory for Douglas and Chelan counties belongs to Patrick Bodell, a mild mannered man devoted to educating his clients - and passersby - about our winged friends.
Fifty-year-old Bodell, originally from Michigan, wants everyone to know he is the man to see when it comes to advice about attracting wild birds to their own backyards.
"I was looking for an interesting retail business to get involved with and I discovered this franchise opportunity while reading Entrepreneur Magazine," he said.
It is Bodell's third retail ownership/management experience.
Just one step into the store and one realizes the atmosphere is not like any other run-of-the-mill small or big box store with the chaos and crowding we've come to expect.
"At the very least it is a happy place," Bodell said. "People come in here stressed-out," according to Bodell, but then a miraculous change in their demeanor takes place - peace and tranquility ends up winning the day, at least for a little while before returning to the hustle and bustle of the workaday world.
"Education and advice is free, but the key is patience," Bodell states about attracting various species to your backyard.
The shop is indeed peaceful, but unexpectedly filled with avian knowledge. He even has a literal live "feed" television of a bird feeder from Ithaca, New York showing the antics of squirrels and wild birds as they forage for in-house and take-out grub.
The TV setup is operated by Cornell University's Lab of Ornithology and can be spellbinding for those of us who love to watch wild birds and other critters go about their daily routine.
Bodell is an avid supporter of the local Audubon Society chapter and is also a dedicated bird watcher (birder) who loves to traipse about the woods and meadows in search of same.
He uses high powered binoculars to capture mental memories of a huge variety of bird species all over the valleys, mountains and meadows of Douglas and Chelan counties.

The franchise fee for Bodell was under $30,000, but can easily cost between $150,000 to $400,000 for the complete package to actually open a store, pay the lease, buy the starting stock and attending the required Wild Birds Unlimited University in Indianapolis, Indiana.
"The WBU folks don't take just anybody that has the money. They screen potential franchisees to make sure there is a good fit to the company's goals and mission policy," said Bodell.
After he graduated the WBU school, he had to undergo a "shadowing" process with an active franchisee to watch and learn how the retail business is operated.
Currently, Bodell employs four workers besides himself. His best selling products are made in America bird feed, packaged exclusively for his franchise by a Puyallup firm.
"This feed doesn't contain filler or shells like the feed sold by many other stores," Bodell said. Another hot selling item is the quail block feeders because "everyone loves their quail."
Another favorite of bird enthusiasts is a product called Bark Butter that can be spread onto the bark of trees to attract species that normally pick at bark looking for insects.
Regarding the expectations of the WBU organization, "you don't have to be a bird expert at the start, but everyone in Wenatchee and beyond should know to come here for advice, education and the best products."
Even if your goal is to repel squirrels, rats and other pests, the "bird whisperer" (Bodell) sells the products and has the ideas to do just that.  
Besides attending the company university and learning from another franchisee, Bodell also took Susan Ballinger's Birding Identification Skills course at Wenatchee Valley College and attended a variety of bird walks run by the NCW Audubon Society chapter, "all extremely helpful," he said.
He also has had excellent relations and collaborations with the Wenatchee River Institute and the Wenatchee Valley Museum and Cultural Center.
Bodell has had birder customers from Moses Lake, Colville and Granger visit his shop. According to his three-year business plan, the store, opened in October of 2017, "is on track and on schedule to be viable."
Every visitor to the store receives a free bag of goodies, which includes a package of bird feed, a beautiful poster of birds found in Washington, an all-seasons bird feeding hobby guide, information about joining a daily savings club as well as a newsletter put out by the North Central Washington Audubon Society.
Oxymoronically, many folks walk in to the Wild Birds shop "and ask where the birds are," said the amused Bodell. Of course he doesn't sell caged pet birds, but he does sell feed, bird houses and bird books, etc.
The store is located at 212 Fifth Street, Suite 10 in Wenatchee and is open 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. M - F, closing at 5 p.m. on Saturday and open 11 a.m. - 4 p.m. Sundays.
For more information call 509-888-0513 or visit wbu.com/wenatchee or email wbuwenatchee@gmail.com.
For more information about joining the NCW Audubon Society, email membership chairman Mark Oswood, moswood@nwi.net.
To inquire about field trips, contact Janet Bauer, jsrbauer@gmail.com. A field trip is scheduled for Leavenworth on June 8 and Twisp on June 15, both hosted by Mark Johnson of Leavenworth. He can be reached by calling 509-548-5766 or 253-297-0705. Reservations are limited.

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