By Amy Rowley

olympia backyard birds
Bob and Katie Gundlach purchased the Wild Birds Unlimited franchise after a successful career in the insurance industry.

Tucked away in a West Olympia strip mall, Wild Birds Unlimited is educating Thurston County on using your yard as a habitat to attract delightful songbirds.

According to owner Bob Gundlach, customers visit Wild Birds Unlimited to not only buy bird feeders and bird seed but to get accurate knowledge about local birds.

While chatting with Bob, a customer stops in to discuss a unknown bird found in the backyard.  The Wild Birds Unlimited team picks up a identification book and asks the customer some pointed questions to help identify the backyard visitor.

Another customer wants to chat about quality bird seed and the best blend for his neighborhood birds.

Wild Birds Unlimited, a national franchise with 280 stores across Canada and the US, specializes in the hobby of backyard birding, serving as the resource on any birding question that may be posed by their customers.

In January 2012, Bob Gundlach and his wife, Katie, purchased the store that has a 17-year history in our community.  The Gundlach duo operated a Farmers Insurance agency for 27 years and was ready for a change, heading into a second career.

“My wife and I have always liked identifying birds.  We were customers of this store long before we bought it,” says Gundlach.

olympia backyard bird“We did a lot of research on different franchise options and found the organization of Wild Birds Unlimited to be one of the best,” adds Gundlach.

During the research process, Gundlach met Heritage Bank business banker, Kevin Ekar, who had a professional relationship with the previous owners.  “After I sat down with Kevin, I felt confident with moving forward to buy the business.  It was so helpful to have a local banker who had all the background knowledge.  He knew about the store, its financial position, history and trends,” reports Gundlach.

Ekar then directed Gundlach towards small business financing that would be a match for his new business.

Gundlach’s Wild Birds Unlimited store is staffed with long-term employees that stayed with the business during the ownership transition.  “The staff is unbelievable.  They all stayed.  They can answer any question about birds or how to attract different birds to your backyard,” he says.

olympia backyard birdGundlach pulls out a sack of bird seed that comes from a big box store.  He points out “filler” seeds that our local birds are uninterested in eating.  He explains that buying poor quality bird seed actually costs hobbyists more money because the birds kick out the unappealing seeds.  This creates a mess that attracts predators and pests.

The bird seed sold at the West Olympia store is specifically blended for our region.  Gundlach explains that it’s triple cleaned without many stems or leaves. Gundlach adds that the store receives a fresh supply every week.  “You know that you are buying bird seed that they will actually eat,” he summarizes.

heritage bankBeyond selling quality bird seed, Wild Birds Unlimited has an outstanding stock of bird-related products including high quality binoculars and feeders.  Gundlach even says that they have the perfect feeder to keep backyard pests out and backyard birds in.

“With a quality product, like a US-made bird feeder with a lifetime guarantee, you can enjoy the hobby even more,” says Gundlach when showing off the variety of birding supplies sold in his store.

“I have six feeders in my backyard.  My granddaughter can pull out her book to identify a yellow belly sapsucker or a downy woodpecker,” says Ekar about his personal experience as a Wild Birds Unlimited customer.

olympia backyard birdGundlach’s goal is to get people, like Ekar’s granddaughter, excited about birds.  Inside the store, there are educational books, gorgeous photos, and unique gifts for bird lovers.

“It’s been fun to watch Bob succeed.  He has brought new energy and a fresh approach which is not especially easy when transferring industries,” reflects Ekar.

“Kevin made this really easy for us.  He has a sincere interest in our store.  It helps to have a good relationship like that with your banker,” notes Gundlach.

To discover a refuge in your backyard, visit Wild Birds Unlimited in West Olympia.


olympia backyard birdsWild Birds Unlimited

1200 Cooper Point Road SW

Olympia, WA 98502


Special thanks to Kim Merriman for the bird photos.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email