MATTHEWS – If Laurie Horne doesn’t know your name yet, she likely will by the time you leave her quaint store.
Of the six people that walked into Backyard Birds on a recent Monday, five of them were immediately greeted by first name by Horne, the store’s owner.
Some were even sniffed by Buddy, the 6-year-old, four-legged customer care specialist as they made their way through the store.
The small-store feel and mascot dog aren’t just for show, it’s a successful strategy outlining how Horne conducts business every day.
But it’s easy, she says, because of her passion for birds and wildlife. Before she bought the business, Horne loved to feed the birds and blend with the wildlife.
“I’ve been feeding the birds forever,” she said. “I grew up in Alaska, so nature was a big thing. As soon as I got a house or any kind of yard I started feeding the birds, but also getting to see how many birds I can see in a lifetime is of huge interest to me. Also, it’s kind of cool coexisting with the squirrels, raccoons and opossums. We all have to blend together.”
At first, Horne was just a customer when Roger Ford, who opened the business in 1996, sold the business to his children, Jason Ford and Cari Mull.
Later, the kids sold the business to Horne, but the three now work together in harmony.
Backyard Birds is packed on the inside with bird feeders, bird seeds of all types, garden flags, gnomes, Christmas ornaments and an array of knickknacks sure to make any casual shopper happy.
For the diehards, Horne can get any resource available, but much of that stuff is already on the shelves.
Horne said bird feeding and bird watching has become a phenomenon, so there are many people there for bird-feeding products.
“Bird feeding is becoming very popular,” she said. “It’s like No. 2 behind gardening, so it’s popular and people love to do it. I think it’s great because people get to touch nature in some way with all the riffraff of everything else going on.”
Horne said there is something about the retail store that gives her customers a better experience.
“I had somebody tell me the other day, ‘I love coming here because I can find things without guessing,’” she said. “Online shopping is kind of guessing a lot of the information. Anyone can write something online, but face-to-face you’re going to tell the truth to someone.”
Horne takes that same truthful, small-store approach to her customer service strategy.
A former executive with Belk and a 35-year veteran of the cosmetic industry, Horne said customer service has always been her strong point and something she’s brought to Backyard Birds.
“The biggest thing for us is customer service and having the same people run the business for so long,” Horne said. “There are a lot of people who truly come here because of that. We know them and we know what they want.”
As another customer exits the store on a typical Monday, Horne waves goodbye, of course referring to her by her first name.
That’s how she has kept her customers happy and built a strong business. To be recognized for any of that is truly icing on the cake.
“It means that I think what I wanted to accomplish is paying off,” Horne said. “I wanted people comfortable to come in here and have a place to come instead of all of that online stuff. If you can feel and touch and be comfortable doing it. I think that makes a big difference. And we’ll help you find what you need and get you on your way.”
Want to learn more?
Backyard Birds is located at 1819 Matthews Township Pkwy., Suite 800, Matthews. Call 704-841-9453 or visit www.thebirdfoodstore.com for details.