After years of being asked by their customers when they were going to open a store in the Northwest, Jon and Shani Friedman have finally answered the question, opening the Wild Bird Store II in the Trader Joe's shopping center, 7854 N. Oracle Road, Nov. 1.

The new Northwest store has everything the first store on Grant Road has except the drive across town, said Jon Friedman.

The store caters to wild bird lovers of all types and features 18 kinds of bird feed as well as bird feeders and bird houses, including species-specific bird feeders and houses; bird books; bird baths; bird art; bird photos; bird jewelry; and binoculars for watching birds.

Friedman and his wife opened the first store 10 years ago after a futile search for bird feed for their dozens of bird feeders. The idea of selling bird feed and feeders for wild birds, though novel, seemed risky to banks and other lending companies and the Friedman's were literally laughed out of one bank. They ended up financing the first store themselves.

The couple was convinced the store would succeed as bird watching is the second most popular pastime in the country after gardening. The Friedmans are avid bird watchers and, though they lack degrees in ornithology or similar scientific disciplines, they are considered experts on the birds of Southeastern Arizona.

Friedman not only can identify hundreds of birds by their call or appearance, he knows their favorite habitats, migrating seasons and, most importantly, what they eat and how they like to eat it. He has put that knowledge to use creating unique bird feeders and bird feed mixes that are guaranteed to attract the types of birds sought by bird enthusiasts.

"Everything I sell is going to have a guarantee. Virtually everything I sell has a lifetime warranty. Everything we sell works, and that's what keeps people coming back."

The species-specific feeders have been developed and tested by him to make sure they work.

For instance, he has feeders specifically for woodpeckers, a feeder for flycatchers, feeders that allow small birds in but not larger, more intrusive pigeons and doves, he has feeders that are just for cardinals and pyrrholuxia and of course several different kinds of hummingbird feeders for several different kinds of hummingbirds.

"If a bird is known to exist in the area, we can help you attract that bird," Friedman said.

What's more, he makes his own bird feed. There are more than 18 different types of bird food, including seed mixes that the Friedmans hand mix and a feed for birds that eat nuts and insects called, none too surprisingly, Nuts 'n' Bugs.

Nut 'n' Bugs is a mix of freeze dried fruit flys and pecans than can be spread on different types of feeders which the store sells to attract birds, especially woodpeckers, that eat nuts and bugs.

The mixture has become so popular he's now manufacturing thousands of pounds a week and wholesaling it across the country, including to several prominent zoos.

The Friedman's expertise and the uniqueness of their store have made the store a destination for Southern Arizona bird enthusiasts.

But about a year and a half ago, a chain wild bird feed store opened at Ina and Oracle Road and Friedman said over the course of a year, he noticed a drop in business coming from the Northwest ZIP codes.

"We had customers saying that, 'we love your family-owned shop, but for convenience, we've started shopping at the other store,'" Friedman said.

He said that, for some of his Northwest customers, driving to his mid-town store was 60-mile round trip.

He said he had hundreds of customers calling him asking him to open a store on this side of town. So he and his wife, along with his son and daughter-in-law, Justin and Clarisa Friedman, decided to open the second store.

"We knew we'd get our old customers back but because this is a growing area, we knew we'd get new customers too," Friedman said of the expansion decision.

After a successful decade selling bird seed, feeders and bird watching accessories, and the creation of an industry nationwide in which two large wild bird feed chains have opened hundreds of stores across the country, the Friedman's figured getting a business loan to open the second store would be a simple matter.

Not so.

Several banks turned them down, including their own bank which they had passed millions of dollars through in the last 10 years.

One of their store's customers happened to be Robert Wick, owner of Wick Communications a regional newspaper chain that publishes a Tucson business newspaper.

Friedman said Wick had the newspaper write a story about the Friedman's plight -- successful small business owners unable to get a loan to expand -- in hopes the story might embarrass or shame a lending institution in Tucson to give them a loan.

The story both failed and succeeded. It failed in that they still couldn't get a loan from a bank. It succeeded because several investors read the story and the family ended up getting private loans to finance the new store.

Friedman said Justin and Clarisa will run the Northwest store primarily, with Jon and Shani splitting time between the two stores.

Though open now, the store will be having a grand opening celebration during the week of Nov. 8-16. As part of the celebration, the store will be giving away door prizes that include a $400 pair of binoculars, gift packs, feeders and other bird accessories.

The store is open Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.

Call 531-5572 for more information.

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