When Lake Highlanders Kim and David Hurt began their small business six years ago, they had hoped the Dallas area would be receptive to their products.
Now their store has taken off like a bird in flight.
Wild Bird Unlimited, located at 4300 Lovers Lane in Dallas, is a birder’s dream. Filled with feeders, seed, garden statuaries, bat houses, squirrel-proofing products, chimes, binoculars, books and more, the charming store accommodates all levels of bird enthusiasts.
"The overall atmosphere of the store is nice because, not only do we have the nature sounds and the water running, the people who come in here add to it because they’re happy to be in here," said owner Kim Hurt. "They’re in here because they’re doing something they enjoy — it’s their hobby … it’s kind of a happy business, I think. It’s not like they’re having to get their car repaired."
Making The Wage
The Hurts got their start in April 1993, less than six months after they married. "I just knew I wanted to do something with birds," said David who, upon graduating with a business degree from the University of Texas found himself "under employed" as a waiter. Kim, who holds a civil engineering degree from UT, joined her husband in the desire to be a part of the birding industry. After a year and three month search for a landlord who would rent the couple the space, the Hurts were finally able to open their birding store.
Working side by side "24 hours a day, seven days a week," their first year as entrepreneurs was spent learning the ins and outs of the business and defining their individual roles. Kim, the quiet "list maker," took on the "nuts and bolts" of running the store. David, who is a self-proclaimed "talker," manned the public relations and advertising front. "We make a good team. I don’t know of too many couples who could do what we do," said David.
According to the Hurts, the first year netted them a whopping $14,000. "We could’ve worked in a fast food joint and made more money hourly," said David. "We ate so much macaroni and cheese, it felt like college all over again."
Although the profits were low, the Hurts hadn’t acquired a lot of bills or debt and were able to shoulder the squeeze on spending money for entertainment and luxury items. With most of the profits devoted to building up store inventory, they were able to add about $5,000 worth of new products each month, creating a dynamic environment for repeat customers. "Kim works very hard at making this store be different every time someone comes in here," David said.
Their business plan worked. After three short years, the store’s popularity grew so much that the Hurts needed more room. They purchased a plat of land at a prominent corner on Lovers Lane and built a beautiful 6,000-square-foot, two-story shop. Today the store sports thousands of products.
For Kim and David, co-ownership of the store has not only helped them in their quest to "bring people and nature together," but it has made their marriage stronger. "It’s a relationship of trust," David said." (The relationship has) expanded into more than just a regular marriage because now both of us have a stake in the success."
For the Love of Birds
Kim and David have weighed the positive and negative elements to expanding their business into a second location, but after careful consideration, they have decided against it for now. "One of us in one store and one in the other — that’s not real inviting to us. Expansion can be great for some industries, but this is a destination point," David said. "People come here — they don’t happen upon it."
The couple plans to focus on growing the list of customer services, including coordinating birding trips, starting a junior Audubon group and offering seed delivery.
After six years, Wild Birds Unlimited is running at a smooth, successful pace with only one small hitch — finding enough employees to accommodate all the customers. On the front door of their quaint shop hangs a small sign that outlines the requirements for working with Kim and David: a smile and strong back. After all, those big bags of birdseed can be really heavy.