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Wild Birds Unlimited: Teaching Customers about Wildlife

The store not only offers advice to customers but also a place for them to relax outside and a weekly nature walk to learn about native birds.

Two years ago, after Nancy Skinner was laid off from her landscaping job, she and her husband Steve bought the Joliet location of Wild Birds Unlimited. The store, it turns out, was a perfect fit.

"It’s always been an interest to me because I was introduced to birds and nature as a small child," Skinner said.

Today, as the owner of the store, she hopes to pass that gift along to the next generation.

"We’re getting younger parents now with kids that come in," Skinner said.

So, she created an area just for kids in her store, hoping that what they learn when they are young will stay with them.

"It’s something they will always have as an interest and a passion," she said.

Skinner sells items for customers to feed wild birds and also gift items. But she does not stop there. She takes time to educated her customers about native species and how to properly care for outdoor birds.

"They have a lot of questions," Skinner said of those new to feeding wild birds. "We are all educated in advising people; we know what food to put out that attracts certain birds."

In addition to feeders and food, the store sells birdbaths, which Skinner said are especially important in the winter.

"We have heated bird baths," Skinner said. "A lot of people don’t know that they need water in the winter."

Skinner said the birds can bathe in the warm water and that when their feathers are clean, they stay warmer.

In addition to baths, providing food for birds in the winter helps to counter the lack of food. Suet, a specific kind of bird food that is high in fat is one such example.

"Suet is a good replacement for insects," Skinner said.

It is not enough for Skinner to just simply explain which birds eat what food by showing customers photos in a book. Instead, the store hosts a nature walk at 8:30 a.m. every Wednesday.

"Kids, grandkids and dogs are all welcome," she said of the walk, which usually lasts about an hour, depending on the weather and who is walking.

And, the sentiment of kids, grandkids and dogs being welcomed crosses over into the store as well. Skinner welcomes customers to bring their dog in for a visit. She even takes photos and posts them to the store's Facebook page.

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