By Josiah Lerman
Despite the store’s longevity and loyal customer base, A Bird Haven will be closing its doors at the end of March. The bird-dedicated store has been open for 25 years, but owners Mark and Sharon will be closing the store to begin a life of travel and retirement.
Mark and Sharon have been in the bird business for 40 years now. The couple started as owners of parrots, then went on to work at a pet store before eventually pioneering a shop that existed solely for birds. She stated that “We kinda focused just on birds and started the first [pet shop] in San Diego to be just birds…It’s our favorite pet.”
The first pet store they opened was called Our Feathered Friends. They opened it in 1978 in San Diego, and almost a decade later, in 1989, the owners expanded. They purchased A Bird Haven in Escondido. This store was not, however, located in its iconic spot on Grand Ave yet, but at the intersection of Citrus Ave and Valley Parkway. It was after about five more years of hard work, in 1992, that they had the opportunity to purchase a building on Grand. They moved their Escondido shop to the city’s main street and have been there ever since. Sharon comments that their business had “just snowballed into that store [Our Feathered Friends], a bigger store, then a second store [A Bird Haven], and a bigger second store.”
The store’s popularity and customer base means that the bird shop on Grand is not closing for any monetary-related problems. Sharon said, “There’s no complaints, nothing’s wrong or anything. You know, we’re getting to the point now after 40 years [that] we’re gonna retire.” She elaborated that after so many years of everyday hard work, and a commute from East County where they live, it’s just time for them. “It’s sad…[but] it’s time to travel and you know, enjoy the rest of our lives.”
Although the Escondido location will be closing, Our Feathered Friends will remain open under new owners. “Our other employees are going to buy the other store that we have. So we’re selling [Our Feathered Friends], but this one is just too much for them to take on two [stores] all at once,” Sharon explained. “As of April 1st, 2018, the new owners of Our Feathered Friends will be Rafael and Alison, the long-time managers of the store.” An open letter on their website explains further. The new owners plan to honor any policies or contracts relating to birds purchased from A Bird Haven at the remaining location in San Diego.
Even though one of their bird businesses will remain open, Sharon and Mark are sad to see A Bird Haven close their doors. Sharon said that her fondest moments of owning the stores come from their loyal customers and employees. “We have a lot of long-term employees, that have stuck with us for a long time… Quite a few of them over 20 [years].” The owners also wrote in their open letter saying, “If you have come into the store in the last 20 years, the same people would have helped you…Their knowledge of birds and their care has helped generations of families take care of their feathered family members.”
The owners have a lot of gratitude to their customers and the city of Escondido for the 30 years they have operated A Bird Haven. “We love Escondido, it’s been great to us,” Sharon explained, “We don’t plan to sell the building. We’re going to try to find a good tenant to occupy.” She also reiterated that although they are upset about closing up shop, they found that it was “just time to start enjoying the rest of our lives.”
Many people of Escondido love the shop as much as the owners love the city. Anne Linn, a student of JPCatholic who visited the store when she first moved here, said “I felt like I was walking into a jungle.” She and others will have fond memories for years to come, even after the store closes its doors.
Though the next chapter of the owners’ lives means the closing of A Bird Haven, Sharon spoke for the both of them saying, “We can’t stress enough how much we want to thank our customers and the city. It’s been wonderful to us.”
Photos Courtesy of the A Bird Haven Yelp page