DELMAR –– Wildbird Junction, located at 308 Delaware Ave., will host some of nature’s most mystical birds on Oct. 7 at an in-store event taking place from 11 a.m. -1 p.m. The birds – which may include a raven, crow, owl, and a surprise appearance by an as yet unidentified bird – will be presented by Whispering Willow Wild Care, a not-for profit organization dedicated to rehabilitating injured wild birds.
Wildbird opened its doors in June 2017. Since then, Wildbird has sold all things related to backyard birding, like wild bird seed, suet, decorative feeders, nesting boxes, birdhouses and birdbaths. It also sells nature and bird-themed gifts, jewelry, games, books and apparel. It strives to provide experiences and nature education, according to Lance Raffe, store owner and Chief Naturepreneur.
“Education is a big part of what we do,” said Raffe. “We educate our customers about birds and wildlife and environmentally friendly things you can do around the house.”
Bird feeding has become the nation’s second most popular hobby after gardening and a multi-billion dollar business annually. Wildbird leans into that interest and expanded it to include activities, such as the Birds of Prey event, to boost nature awareness.
The Birds of Prey event also functions as a fundraiser for Whispering Willow Wild Care. Wildbird pays Whispering Willow Wild Care a fee, holds a raffle with a $25 Wildbird gift card as a prize and donates all the proceeds to the not for profit.
“It’s a great event,” said Raffe. “Our customers ask lots of questions.”
He added that the crows and ravens are fun to interact with because they do tricks.
All the birds that appear at the event have been injured. They may be blind or have broken wings, and cannot be released back into the wild without facing certain death so they have become “education birds,” he said.
Raffe’s favorite part of the Birds of Prey event is interacting with customers and the shared interest.
“No one is angry when coming to see birds,” he said. “No one is pushing to the front of the line.”
“We want to encourage people to become aware of nature,” said customer associate Colleen Bonacci. She pointed out the nature poetry board, where customers can write their own poetry about nature or wildlife.
Wildbird runs several other events, as part of that effort, including a native plant sale, and morning “Slurp & Chirps” during which Wildbird provides coffee and doughnuts and discuss a topic appropriate to the season. On Sept. 27, Wildbird will hold its first ever “Wingspan” game night. Wingspan, an adult game, revolves around birds, nesting, collecting eggs and the things that go into “hardcore birding,” according to Raffe.
The demographics in Bethlehem are right for the backyard birding business, Raffe said. Typically backyard birding customers have high education, disposable income, own a single family home and are empty nesters or retirees, he said. Bethlehem, as well as some of the surrounding communities, has all that.
He was clear that Wildbird is not for the customer hunting down the lowest price.
“We are a value store that gives customers high quality service and high quality products and do not compete on price,” he said.
The Wildbird motto: “No one leaves here without an answer to their question or a solution to their problem” reflects that customer-based ethos.
Wildbird does not even have an online sales presence because of its focus on experience.
“The value provided here is customer service, the personal attention and tailoring the products to the customer’s specific needs,” said Raffe. “If you go online, you won’t get help with what to do about squirrels, what you should feed the birds in your particular yard or how to attract birds to your backyard.”
Wildbird also provides free repairs to bird feeders as a customer courtesy.
Anne Rentz, a customer, drove all the way from West Sand Lake to shop at Wildbird.
“I like to see what I am buying and the people here are very nice and help you out,” she said.
Raffe accounted for his customer base stating, “We are unique and cater to a specific hobby. Our customers and staff will tell you we have our own unique ecosystem here.”
And that eco-system seems to attract customers. The store sees on average 30 customers daily, but at holidays that number climbs to between 60-80.
“It’s the Wildbird Junction family,“ said Raffe. “It’s a comfortable place to come to spend some time looking at what we have, hang out and talk about birds.”
This story appeared on page 3 of the September 20, 2023 print edition of the Spotlight