Every business has a story of how it got started, of the people met on the way and the milestones of its success. The Wild Bird Center story is the classic American dream. One individual had an idea and through hard work, determination, business savvy and a little luck, took it from something small to something bigger than themselves.
George Petrides, Sr. grew up Williamston, MI with nature as a focus. His father, a wildlife management and botany professor at Michigan State University took George on extensive trips locally and abroad to study and observe wildlife and habitat. Inspired by family connections, George became interested in birds. These teachings sparked a love of all things wild which stayed with him and sparked his future business career.
In 1985, George Petrides, Sr. was a government bureaucrat, working in a Washington office after serving with the Peace Corps in Africa, and living in the small bedroom community of Bethesda, MD just outside of Washington, D.C. Cabin John was, and still is, a township rich in birds and wildlife; just a short walk to the C & O Canal and the Potomac River. It was the perfect place to settle and call home for an outdoor enthusiast such as George. It was here that George created his vision – that of a stand-alone bird store in the busy suburbs of Washington, D.C. which combined his love of business, people and the outdoors in a unique way.
That same year, George left his government job and followed his passion, opening his first store in adjacent Cabin John, MD dedicated to serving the needs of backyard birding enthusiasts and promoting the joys of nature. George was years ahead of his time, promoting conservation and stewardship of the environment in his local community.
George's first store was a fixture in the small town of Cabin John, a gathering place for nature lovers to buy bird feeding supplies and exchange stories about local bird sightings. Education was a key part of the business, taking neighborhood hobbyists on bird walks and reaching out to schools and other organizations to promote the hobby and the cause. When local governments tried to zone retailing out of the area, thousands of neighbors took up the cause and saved their local store, a place they truly treasured.
Over the years, George heard from customers and friends, who were inspired by George's success and wanted their own Wild Bird Center store. As his business grew, others noticed. By 1988, several other individuals had joined as partners in surrounding cities. Subsequently, in 1989, George transitioned from running stores to operating a franchise system, providing opportunities for many others to realize their dream of owning their own small business.
George is one of the true innovators in the industry, promoting product research that continues to improve bird lover's experiences today. He holds several patents and is the inventor of the Upside-Down Goldfinch Feeder, a unique design that limits other birds at the feeder and made goldfinches a common, backyard feeder bird.
The retail environment has changed dramatically in the 30+ years since that first store opened. In 2016, Wild Bird Centers, Inc. was acquired by Global Harvest Foods. The Petrides family continues to run the business with the goal of increasing Wild Bird Center's footprint in the marketplace. George Sr. and his son, George Petrides, Jr. are co-owners of the Colorado Springs, CO, Denver, CO, Annapolis, MD, Fort Worth, TX and West Caldwell, NJ Wild Bird Center stores.
After 30+ years, George and the staff at Wild Bird Centers, along with Global Harvest Foods, remain committed to George's original goals and purpose and we're looking forward to a bright and exciting future for our franchisees, the company and of course, the birds.