EUSTIS — You can’t buy birds at Wild Birds Unlimited. But the Eustis shop owners, Dave and Judy Knizner, can show you how to turn your yard into a bird-feeding habitat that attracts wild birds to your property.
The Knizners own one of about 300 Wild Bird Unlimited store franchises across the country and sell products such as seed, feeders, bird baths and much more to backyard birding enthusiasts.
“We help people to entice birds to their yard,” said Judy Knizer. “We feel it’s important to feed wild birds. And it’s entertaining and educational.”
“It brings joy to our customers to see birds in their yard,” said husband Dave.
It also adds a lot of song, color and life to a home.
The Knizners now call Mount Dora home after moving to Lake County to open their franchise. They’ve been open since March 2016.
“We have really enjoyed getting to know the nice people here in Central Florida and want to say thank you in any small ways we can,” said Judy.
The husband/wife team has had a different spectrum of jobs and their experiences have blended well together in their business venture.
Dave, 62, had been a vice president in finance for a developer in Fort Myers and Judy, 59, taught second grade.
The pair has been feeding birds in their backyard for years. It all began when they visited their daughter in Tallahassee and found a Wild Birds Unlimited store about 15 years ago and got hooked.
“It was real relaxing every time we came in,” Dave said. “We thought we’d look into franchise if we ever retired. We changed careers and that’s what we did.”
The couple, married 39 years, complement each other. Dave handles the books and Judy does presentation, such as one for children at the library in Mount Dora several months ago. She feels like she’s still in education but not only because of her time with the kids.
“I’ve been learning about the birds of Lake County,” she said.
The Knizners' store carries a plethora of products to attract wild birds and beautiful yards. Who knew there were so many different types of bird feeders, many with various attachments?
“It's like a Pandora bracelet where you can get all those little attachments, like a perch, a birdbath, mealworm feeders and additional hangers,” said Judy.
Summer is a slower time for wild birds, as many have migrated north already.
“The season is mainly November to April,” said Dave. “There are more birds here at that time, maybe through May. It starts to slow down in June.”
But there are always birds to feed.
The Knizners have their favorites, mainly the bluebird. They have learned their habits and behaviors. The Eastern Bluebird, one of three species of bluebirds, can be found in central and north Florida.
“I like the bluebird,” said Dave. “We have a bluebird house and they’ve built their third nest in it since January.
“We didn’t know much about bluebirds. I had to read books about them,” said Judy.
Dave likes taking photos of them when he checks the nesting box and the roof lid is opened. First he knocks on the box and if the female is in it she flies out and returns after it’s cleaned.
They have had the same pair of bluebirds return to their nesting box.
Customers are also a good source for learning about Florida’s various birds.
“Customers come in and start talking to each other,” said Judy. “And they share what they experienced.
“They teach us as much as we teach them.”
The franchise also offers a support center with many resources.
The Knizners briefly considered a shop in downtown Mount Dora but Wild Bird Unlimited recommended opening in a shopping plaza.
They only looked at one other plaza before deciding on Eustis Village, located on David Walker Drive and U.S. Highway 441 in Eustis.
In addition to being easy to reach, being located in a plaza helps with customer service.
“We always carry the bags of seed to the car,” said Judy. “They can weigh 20 pounds.”
They also ship their products and the FedEx driver is a regular at the store — always giving treats to their dog Lucy, sort of a store mascot when the Knizners are in the shop. Once Lucy hears the truck she runs to the door.
The pair isn’t considering retirement any time soon. They have a 10-year franchise agreement. As they say it doesn’t’ feel like work if you like what you’re doing and the Knizners are passionate about doing it in Lake County.
While they don’t sell seed for plants they can tell customers what to plant in order to attract different species of birds.
A customer visited one day and said he wanted to attract birds like his neighbor, and that their bluebirds were coming to his feeders.
He started to give the address and the Knizners said that was their house.
“We appreciated how the people of Lake County have been so receptive,” said Judy. “We love our customer base.”
Store hours are from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday.
For more information, go to their website at https://westorlando.wbu.com, email them at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 352-602-4208.