Owners of Wild Birds Unlimited in Kanata ready to spread their wings

Two years after Kindell Tolmie and her husband, Joshua Tolmie, opened a store in western Ottawa for backyard birding enthusiasts, the pair are now acquiring a second Wild Birds Unlimited franchise location in Ottawa and have their sights set on expanding further. to the east.

Beginning in early July, the Tolmies will become the new owners of the Wild Birds Unlimited store, which has been run for over 30 years by their former mentors, Eric and Margo Garrison, who are retiring. The bird specialist is located in the aptly named Blue Heron Mall on Bank Street.

“I always say I’m so excited, but that word isn’t big enough for how we feel about this next step,” said Kindell, who left her full-time career as a nurse to open a store focused on something. that she always does. beloved: birds. “It feels a bit like Christmas morning.”

Similarly, last year Joshua sold his shares in his recruiting company, PinPoint Talent, to devote himself full-time to their Hazeldean Road store in Eaglesons Corners (we can’t escape the bird references, but it’s named after a Scottish settler family, not our bald, feathered friend).

“It’s been an incredible ride,” Joshua said, describing the last two years of working in retail as “rewarding.”

The Tolmies received the Highest Flying Fledgling Award from Wild Birds Unlimited at the franchise’s annual leadership conference in Indianapolis, IN last May. The award recognizes their store’s record franchise-wide sales in its first year of existence.

The pair said they relied on online sales and roadside pick-ups during the height of the pandemic, but as soon as they were able to open their doors, they saw customers flocking back to the store.

“The shopping experience is what we do very well,” says Joshua. “It’s a nice atmosphere.”

Kindell added that “it is a higher level of experience for the customer. Our store is definitely a little hub for bird nerds.”

Wild Bird Unlimited sells wild bird seed, bird feeders, bird houses, bird books and bird baths. The Kanata site will begin organizing guided birdwatching walks in the nearby Greenbelt area this summer now that COVID restrictions have been relaxed, the Tolmies said.

The pandemic, which forced many people to become roommates, saw increased interest in backyard birdwatching and bird sanctuaries. But the Tolmies believe the hobby’s popularity has transcended recent trends close to home to include younger generations concerned about protecting the environment and wildlife, starting with “that little patch of habitat” in their own yard. .

“We always think the hobby is geared more towards the older population, who are retired and have some time,” said Joshua, who shares a statistic released by Wild Birds Unlimited that at least half of his clients are millennials or Gen. be X. generations want to be the change agent to make sure things keep improving from an environmental perspective.”

The Tolmies, originally from Thunder Bay, are ready to share their love of birds with even more people in the community.

The United States and Canada have lost nearly 3 billion birds since 1970, according to a study published in 2019 in the journal Science. Wild Birds Unlimited’s mission is to save the songbirds, Josh said.

“I think the hobby is flourishing. We continue to see new people every day just starting out and picking up feeders for their backyard.”

The sale of the Wild Birds Unlimited franchise store on Bank Street has presented “an opportunity” for both parties, the Tolmies said, who were poised to grow their business. “A lot of times we’re both at the Kanata store together and bump into each other,” Kindell says. “It’s like having one child and two parents. The next natural step is to say, ‘Let’s take another one’.”

The garrisons had taken charge of the Tolmies as the young entrepreneurs prepared to open their shop on the west side. In 2018, Eric and Margo were recognized by Wild Birds Unlimited with the highest award for a franchisee for their focus on customer experience, consistent revenue growth and successful marketing efforts. The award also recognizes Eric’s involvement as a board member at the Wild Bird Care Center for injured, orphaned and displaced birds.

The Tolmies say they are ahead of their five-year expansion goal with the purchase of the Bank Street store.

The big question now is whether the Tolmies will have a third child, figuratively speaking (actually, they stopped at two girls). Judging by how well the last two years have gone for them in the west side, “we know there’s easy to earn a lot of revenue from a third location in the east side,” Joshua said. “We certainly have our eyes open for future growth with the brand in Eastern Ontario.”

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