Wild Birds Unlimited Provides Products for Bird Hobbyists and Enthusiasts
Writer / Renee Larr
With spring weather approaching, opportunities for outdoor hobbies like bird watching increase. Wild Birds Unlimited offers products and advice for the novice to experienced bird watcher. Charity Rausch previously worked in retail buying, but felt the need for something different.
“I was planning inventory and things like that,” Rausch says. “I worked for the Finish Line in Indianapolis’ corporate office, but ultimately left to teach at Indiana University in retail studies. I was a visiting lecturer. I was teaching buying, inventory management, visual merchandising – everything retail-wise.”
Rausch was commuting from Zionsville to Bloomington for work.
“I had a little boy, and it just wasn’t working,” Rausch says. “The commute wasn’t working. My husband was traveling. I started looking for something a little more local and I found the Wild Birds Unlimited corporate office.”
Rausch worked in the franchise office in Carmel for about four years. Ultimately, she decided to own and run her own franchise location.
“When I opened the first location in 2014, it was a bit of a learning curve for me,” Rausch says. “I had worked in retail but never owned a business. Going from working in retail to operating a retail business was a transition.”
Rausch moved the location from the Carmel-Westfield area to Noblesville.
“Four months after we bought the store, we moved,” Rausch says. “We just moved down the street, but it changed our address to a Noblesville address. The move gave us better visibility. We were in a perfect location, and it jumped our business forward.”
Rausch opened a second location on 96th Street in Indianapolis in 2019.
“We wanted to expand our business, so we bought an existing store,” Rausch says.
While many businesses suffered during the pandemic, Rausch witnessed her business grow.
“I credit a large part of the growth over the last year to the pandemic,” Rausch says. “What I mean by that is many people are working from home, so birding, bird watching and feeding birds has increased tremendously. People are trying to find hobbies while they’re stuck at home.”
The stores already have a loyal following, but during the pandemic, Rausch’s business has increased with new customers.
“We have so many new people coming in who just got into the hobby in the last year,” Rausch says. “It’s been enjoyable for us. Not only are our regular customers home more, doing more birding, but we’ve added more new hobbyists.”
Rausch had to change her business model during the shutdown to cope with her physical stores being closed.
“Our whole business changed,” Rausch says. “We launched our online store in 2020 at both locations. It helped us survive because our customers could still order online and pick up with our curbside service. It’s been so popular we’re planning to continue that service for our customers. Our clients have been so supportive.”
Wild Birds offers delivery services as well. All products are pulled locally from the stores.
“One thing that sets us apart is our service,” Rausch says. “Our staff is so knowledgeable on birds and the hobby of birding. They’re there to offer suggestions and advice to our customers. They’re more like experts on local birds. Guests can come in and get a lot of verbal information because they’re not just salespeople. They’re involved in the hobby as well.”
During the stay-at-home orders, Rausch was able to keep any employee who wanted to work.
“We did have some employees who opted not to work due to health reasons, which we understood,” Rausch says. “We were also able to keep anyone who wanted to come in busy with online orders and delivery.”
Rausch stresses a few differences between her business and many big-box stores.
“Our food is different than what you would get at Target, Walmart or Meijer,” Rausch says. “Bird food isn’t their main business. We get all our food from a local farmer in Ohio. There is no waste in our food. We don’t put seeds in our food that birds won’t eat. A lot of other companies add fillers to their food, like millet. It keeps their prices down, but the birds won’t eat it. People forget birds are a lot like us. If something doesn’t look good to them, they won’t eat it.”
Wild Birds Unlimited is located at 14753 Hazel Dell Crossing, Suite 400 in Noblesville. For more information, call 317-566-8222 or visit noblesville.wbu.com.