It’s a tasteful display of yard ornaments, figurines, bird baths, bird feeders and whimsy.
It’s also a peaceful, serene garden with the calming sound of running water at every step.
It’s a small business called This Place Is For The Birds.
For The Birds is a retail store that primarily sells wild bird seed, but also other items, in the heart of a residential neighborhood in central Colorado Springs, at 2318 Palmer Park Blvd.
By November or December, the business will mark 3 million pounds of bird seed sold since opening its doors 17 years ago, said owner Ron Perry.
The company sells close to 300,000 pounds — six semi loads — annually.
“It’s a true rags-to-hernia type of story,” Perry said.
The number of people who feed birds really surprised him at first. As a hobby, bird-feeding is second in popularity only to gardening, he said.
He buys bulk seed directly from farmers who grow it, and he prefers to buy from Colorado farmers. Then, Perry mixes his own custom bird seed recipes.
Perry buys seeds once a year, during the harvest, and he stores the product until he needs to mix more.
The vast majority of birds, 95 percent, eat either millet or sunflower seed, he said.
Millet is eaten by ground-feeders, doves, juncos, tow-
hees and most blackbirds.
Perching birds, finches, chickadees, grosbeaks, nuthatches and blue jays all prefer eating sunflower seeds.
In the minority, goldfinches and pine siskins prefer thistle seeds.
Perry’s best seller is the plain sunflower chips, which he sells for $9.95 for five pounds and $36.95 for 20 pounds.
As for the mixes, The Colorado Katie’s Wild Finch mix, with sunflower chips, safflower seeds and thistle seeds, sells for $17.49 for 10 pounds, 1 ounce, and $32.95 for 20 pounds.
The Chickadee Delight contains a recipe of black oil sunflower, medium sunflower chips, roasted peanut pieces, blanched peanut splits, safflower seed and whole Valencia peanuts.
He has nine different mixes.
“I’m under Wal-Mart on most items” in cost, said Perry, who added that his seed is always fresh because he and his crew mix their seed several times a week.
Depending on where a customer lives, he or she will buy different mixes to satisfy their wild birds’ appetites.
Geographically, millet seed eaters occupy the plains, while sunflower eaters flit about in the mountains. Both types of birds live in the city.
“I bet I have 30 different types of seed,” Perry said, adding that he has pet bird feed for “inside” canaries and finches, but “not so much for exotics.”
The business has grown every year since the beginning, Perry said.
“During the recession, I had two of the biggest increases I’ve ever had,” he said, recalling the 20 percent increase in 2007 and the 30 percent hike in 2008.
“I was amazed. I mean, you have to feed your kids, your dogs and your cats. But you don’t have to feed outside birds,” Perry said.
Perry himself doesn’t bird-watch, but “if a pretty bird flies down in front of you, it gets your attention.” Forty-two percent of households feed wild birds, he said, with some of his customers having up to 20 feeders.
Seventy-five percent of his sales are for seed. The rest are made up of yard items, birdhouses and bird feeders.
Perry sells dozens of different types of bird feeders, some of which are squirrel-proof.
He also sells statuary with a variety of personalities — cherubs, leprechauns, dogs, dragons, pigs, goddesses, gnomes, squirrels, birds — and lawn ornaments, including different-sized and -colored bird baths, blown-glass flowers and ceramic mushrooms.
There are also gazing balls, large spheres that reflect in 360 degrees. In Victorian times, “the young ladies would look into them and see if any of the guys were paying attention to them,” Perry said.
In 1898, the property was part of a 640-acre section. Katie Veen purchased the property in 1935. Prior to that, there had been seven owners, Perry said. Since 1935, there’s been only Veen and Perry.
Perry was introduced to Veen, then 90 years old, in the late 1980s. She’d been on the property 54 years and had made “improvements — she installed plumbing and electricity,” Perry said.
Veen told Perry a sales price for the property, and when Perry came up short, he asked her if she’d consider carrying a loan for him
“I gave her all the money I had,” Perry said. “She said, ‘Well, I’m 90. I couldn’t carry a note for 15 years, but I could carry it for 12.’
“She missed it by two years,” Perry said, chuckling.
“It is a 104-year-old farm. It’s still self-sustaining as far as agricultural sales go,” Perry said. “There’s a special feel here. It’s just a very relaxing peaceful feeling.
“It’s been a great place to have a business.”
Contact info: 633-4422, 2318 Palmer Park Blvd.
Years in business: 17
Number of employees: 4