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How Wild Birds Unlimited Helps Franchisees Create Lasting Customer Relationships

Lou and Celeste Cafiero, Wild Birds Unlimited franchisees in Gambrills, Maryland, have developed a loyal customer base through community involvement and quality products.

Since its founding in 1981, Wild Birds Unlimited has grown to over 340 locations, all serving communities of people who have a passion for nature and bird feeding across North America. Led by a company-wide vision to connect people with nature, Wild Birds Unlimited guides its franchisees along a rewarding career path that brings with it numerous cultural and lifestyle benefits.

Lou and Celeste Cafiero, Wild Birds Unlimited franchisees in Gambrills, Maryland, are one of those success stories. “I had a successful career in the corporate and government world, but soon realized I was happiest helping to protect and conserve wildlife while educating the public about the importance of conservation,” said Lou. “I have had the opportunity to rescue dolphins off Cape Cod, baboons in Africa and domestic animals with the ASPCA after natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina, tornadoes in Joplin, Missouri and floods in Memphis. As a master diver and photographer, I have traveled the world seeing and photographing whales, white sharks, manta rays and other marine life.”

When Cafiero learned about Wild Birds Unlimited from a local store owner in Arlington, Virginia, he immediately loved the concept, the products, the culture and, last but not least, the idea of owning his own retail business.

“Wild Birds Unlimited had a strong business model and provided useful franchisee support in a variety of areas, graphics, retail strategies, systems and procedures,” said Cafiero. “The Gambrills store was a turnkey opportunity within a reasonable commute from my home. Plus, the area’s demographics are great for growth, and the location is good since it is close to cities like Annapolis, Baltimore and D.C. People really like to feed the birds out here!”

Since opening his store in Gambrills in 2014, Cafiero and Wild Birds Unlimited have developed deep ties to the community. “We have partnered with various local organizations and experts such as the Patuxent WildLife Refuge, Watkins Park Nature Center, Maryland Bluebird Society, Crofton Chamber of Commerce, Linthicum Walks Historic Site and the Crofton/Bowie Gardening Club,” he said. “We’ve also had speaker events at the store, conducted bird watching walks and have donated feeders and birdhouses to many Gambrills organizations such as senior centers, schools and nonprofits. We provide free educational events where people can learn more about local birds and have become known in the community for these events.”

Now, Wild Birds Unlimited is looking to replicate Caifiero’s success in Gambrills by expanding throughout the Northeast. The brand is looking to open multiple locations in Washington D.C., one in Annapolis, Maryland and at least one more in Baltimore. 

“Wild Birds Unlimited is proud to be a part of the Gambrills community, and we’re grateful that customers are so devoted to the store,” said Paul Pickett, CDO of Wild Birds Unlimited. “Lou and Celeste have built such a successful business that's an integral part of the Wild Birds Unlimited system, and we are eager to expand our footprint in the area since there's been such a strong response in the market.”

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, Cafiero was able to lean on his great relationships with his Wild Birds Unlimited business coach and staff in order to continue serving his loyal customers. “We were lucky that the franchise developed an online store several months ago, and we were able to stay open and deal with the COVID-19 pandemic as a result,” he said. 

Each Wild Birds Unlimited franchise location has its own online platform and controls which products from a list of approved inventory they put up for purchase on the online store. The online store is linked to each brick-and-mortar location’s POS system so that pricing is locally determined. 

Looking ahead, Cafiero is confident about the future of the bird feeding industry. “Recent trends show that more people are bird watching and feeding birds in their backyards,” said Cafiero. “More are shopping online post-COVID but enjoy having the option of coming into the store where they can receive personalized, expert information.”

All in all, Cafiero notes that the Wild Birds Unlimited brand stands out in the industry because of its history of success, knowledgeable staff, training, support, fresh bird seed, quality products and community involvement. “One of my staff members, Sam, started working for us as a 15-year-old and is now in his third year of college,” he said. “He is a proficient bird expert who participated in the World Series of Birding and came in first place with his team. It's moments like those that make Wild Birds Unlimited ownerships so rewarding.”

Wild Birds Unlimited is the original and largest franchise system of backyard bird feeding and nature specialty stores with more than 340 locations throughout the United States and Canada. The investment level to open a Wild Birds Unlimited location is $170,382 to $281,606. To learn about franchising opportunities with Wild Birds Unlimited, please visit www.wbufranchise.com.

*This brand is a paid partner of 1851 Franchise. For more information on paid partnerships please click here.

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