Wild Bird and Biggby
More Marketplace Changes
by Tony McReynolds & Sally Mitani
There are more than sixty million birders in the United States--but Lisa Haanpaa, the new owner of Ann Arbor's Wild Bird Center, doesn't consider herself one of them. "I'm not technically a birder; I'm a backyard birder," she insists. While serious bird-watchers track migration patterns and travel the country adding to their life lists, she just likes to put out birdseed and watch the birds feed. For a backyard birder, though, she's pretty serious: she has six feeders to accommodate different species, diets, and feeding habits.
Haanpaa, who bought the franchise from Wayne Baker last summer, estimates that 30 percent of her customers are serious, muck-around-in-the-wild birders. The rest are more like her. She sells more than 100 different bird feeders, from a simple $10 plastic one that holds a handful of seeds to a $350 copper-topped version that's made from recycled milk jugs and holds up to ten pounds. She carries a wide selection of birdseed, including special blends for various breeds. Other products include binoculars, field guides, birdbaths, nesting boxes, books, videos, T-shirts, sweatshirts, and gifts. She also plans to host regular workshops for kids on how to build a birdhouse.
It's Haanpaa's second Wild Bird franchise. She quit her job as a project manager at a web firm to open the first in Brighton in 2007. She says she'd always wanted to own her own business, and her lifelong interest in birds made Wild Bird Center seem like a good fit. She says it's a good business to be in these days: "In this economy, it's something you can do with your kids that's close to home, and it makes your backyard exciting."
Wild Bird Center, 2225 Plymouth (Traver Village Shopping Center). 213-2473. Mon.-Sat. 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Sun. noon-5 p.m. www.wildbird.com/franchisee/ann
Jeannine Mickeleit loves coffee. "I used to study a lot, and I got several degrees, all of them over coffee," says the thirty-three-year old MSU grad, former financial advisor, and recent M.B.A. After researching
several businesses to buy, she chose a Biggby Coffee franchise. She opened Ann Arbor's third Biggby in the Courtyard Shops on Plymouth in late September, hoping to capture both students and commuters.
"It's all about the coffee," she says firmly of her and the Lansing company's philosophy. "And we don't just want to serve you a cup of coffee. We want you to leave in a better mood." Mickeleit says it's no accident that when you walk in the door, the first person to catch your eye is the cashier, who will "point you in the right direction and walk you through the experience." Not so important is the food--the pastries, bagels, and bagel sandwiches are "add-ons," she says candidly, "from Sysco." Mickeleit is confident that people don't come to coffee shops for the food--they come for the lattes, especially one called the "Caramel Marvel."
Mickeleit says she's looking into another Ann Arbor location but hasn't signed anything yet. "The market is definitely ready for it," she says.
Biggby Coffee, 1741 Plymouth. (Courtyard Shops). 222-7030. Mon.-Sat. 6 a.m.-9 p.m., Sun. 7 a.m.-9 p.m. www.biggby.com
[Originally published in November, 2009.]