Owner Talks Excitement of Reopened North Michigan Road Store
Photographer / Eli Beaverson
Growing up, Charity Rausch had her eyes set on running a business of her own.
“I went to IU and was going to be in retail,” Rausch says. “I apparently told everybody I was going to own my own business. I don’t really recall saying that, but that’s what everyone tells me I said.”
Now, Rausch and her husband Adam are franchise storeowners of two Wild Birds Unlimited locations in Carmel-Zionsville and Noblesville. With roots in the Zionsville area, the Rausch family is especially thrilled to have reopened the store in their neck of the woods this past July.
“The Noblesville store is my baby, so I love the Noblesville store,” Charity says. “But I was really excited to purchase this store where we live because it’s in the community where we can give back and be part of it, even more than we already are by living here with our children.”
Originally founded in 1981 by John Carpenter, the first-ever Wild Birds Unlimited store was located in Broad Ripple. Since those humble beginnings, however, the backyard bird feeding and nature specialty store has grown to be the largest of its kind, with more than 330 locations throughout the United States and Canada.
With these Indiana roots, Wild Birds Unlimited has its franchise office located in Carmel. It’s here where Charity first got involved with the company after many years of pursuing other retail-related endeavors.
“The birds came into the picture about 10 years ago, and the business didn’t come from the passion for birds,” she says with a laugh. “The business came first, and then the passion for birds came after.”
The Path to Birds
Originally born in Roachdale, Ind., Charity studied at Indiana University before quickly entering the corporate retail sector.
“I have worked in retail since I was in college, and that’s mostly been corporate retail,” she says. “I decided it was time to start a family, and corporate retail required a lot of traveling. It just didn’t feel like a balance with what I was looking for.”
After planting roots in Zionsville, Charity accepted a job at Indiana University as a lecturer in the retail studies program.
“I did that for about four years, commuting from Zionsville to IU and teaching down there,” she says. “I absolutely adored that job. If my family hadn’t been a priority, I probably would still be doing that. But my family became the priority, and commuting from Zionsville to Bloomington was a bit of a challenge.”
This led to her job at the Wild Birds Unlimited franchise office, working as a business coach to franchise store owners.
“They got me hooked on the birds and the love of nature,” Charity says. “Our mission statement is, ‘We bring people and nature together with excellence,’ and they did that for me. I had never really been super connected like I am now with nature and birds, but that’s what the franchise office gave me.”
Eventually, she and her husband decided they would like to purchase a franchise in the Indy area. And after patiently waiting for a while, the couple was granted the perfect opportunity in 2014, purchasing a store in Westfield that eventually became the current Noblesville store.
“I was their business coach,” Charity says of the former Westfield owners. “They called and said, ‘Hey. Can you help us pull some information together for a potential buyer?’ And I said, ‘Actually, my husband and I are interested in buying your store.’ So that’s how we bought the first store.”
Embracing the Community
With a second store now located in her own Carmel-Zionsville community, Rausch looks forward to sharing her passion for nature with neighbors.
“Since I don’t live in Noblesville, it’s harder to stay connected and know what’s going on over there,” Charity says. “Whereas with the Zionsville community, I am already here. I know what’s going on and how we can get more involved in the community in regards to education on the birds and nature-related things.”
In the future, Charity would especially like to educate more youths in the area on the wildlife in their backyard.
“I’m usually always geared toward youth with programs,” she says. “I feel like today’s youth is on technology a bit too much, especially since I have a teenager. So this is just a way to get kids connected and get them outside.”
All in all, Charity looks forward to owning a Wild Birds Unlimited store in her own backyard.
“I’m just excited to be involved in the community a little bit more with the business,” she says.
The Carmel-Zionsville Wild Birds Unlimited store is located at 9830A N. Michigan Rd. You can also call them at 317-334-1883 or visit them online at Carmel.WBU.com.