Birdie’s brings nostalgia, vintage electronics and pet supplies to Elkader

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Amanda Hostetler is the owner of the new business Birdie’s, located on Elkader’s Main Street. The store offers a unique selection of pet supplies and novelty gifts.

Birdie’s opened this past weekend, selling items not just for dogs and cats, but vintage signs and electronics too. Nostalgia will also feature prominently in the store’s ambiance, with mid-century stylings and entertainment.

By Willis Patenaude, Times-Register

 

A new business open on Elkader’s Main Street is as eclectic as its owner, Amanda Hostetler, whose decision to leave her previous career with the DNR to start a businesses was borne out of a lifelong passion, but also opportunity. 

 

It’s the question, “If not now, then when?” Well, for Hostetler, who resides outside Arlington, after waking up on her 40th birthday, decided the “when” was now. Thus, the story of Birdie’s officially started. 

 

But before Birdie’s could brighten up Main Street, and Hostetler’s love of antiques would influence the décor, some decisions had to be made. Chief among them was the choice to stay in Iowa, after conversations about heading west were derailed by rising prices.

 

But more than that was the fact Elkader has emerged as a new business haven in recent years. Hostetler, no stranger to the area, having worked with the Opera House Players on a few occasions behind the scenes, was well aware of how things have grown and changed. 

 

Elkader, as she put it, has become “more popular,” prompting the belief that now “just feels right” to take the plunge into her first business venture. 

 

Her idea fully formulated last December,  spawned from Hostetler’s interest in antiques and conversations with local business owners. That included Ed and Kathy Josten, who listened to Hostetler’s idea and, after affirming it was a good one, helped Hostetler get her business plan together and research the viability of the business. 

 

After all, what is the market for classic and antique signs, vintage electronics and pet supplies? 

 

According to Hostetler, the market appears quite solid for the nostalgia driven niche variety store with pet supplies. In her estimation, pets are a huge presence in people’s lives, and even during economic downturns, it appears people will continue to need pet supplies and will continue spending on their pets. The options available in Elkader are currently limited, meaning there is no direct competitor for Birdie’s for pet supplies. 

 

Among the supplies is an assortment of unique pet treats like ice cream for dogs, dried fish skins, dehydrated sardines and an assortment of bacon treats, as well as shampoo and conditioners, massage oils, eco-friendly litter and of course, pet toys. There are also novelty gifts like greeting cards, mugs, stickers and cat T-shirts. 

 

The variety of items offers something for everyone, and in a price range Hostetler believes fits the community’s needs. 

 

It should be noted the pet supply portion of the business caters exclusively to dogs and cats, which Hostetler mentioned are allowed in the store while customers shop. 

 

Another unique thing about Birdie’s is the overwhelming majority of items are from small business suppliers rather than chain manufactures. Hostetler is looking to find more local suppliers in the future. 

 

“As a small business myself, I want to support other small businesses as much as I can,” Hostetler said. 

 

Part of the store’s charm also resides in the impact of nostalgia. To harness that, Hostetler isn’t just selling antique signs and vintage radios. The ambiance of the store, from the midcentury stylings to the paper lantern light fixtures and even entertainment, will feature prominently. 

 

In the back of the store is a 1970s RCA television that will play classics like Bewitched, Green Acres and I Dream of Genie, shows Hostetler grew up watching. 

 

Additionally, upon entering the store and  walking around, visitors will settle in with the sounds of music from the 1940s and 1950s, which harkens back to simpler times and is meant to appeal to a wider audience and bring joy with its upbeat nature. 

 

It’s all meant to reflect the family-friendly atmosphere Hostetler is trying to create, where people should have fun shopping with no pressure to buy. 

 

Along the way to making Birdie’s a reality, Hostetler realized there are numerous, time-consuming, little things that business owners don’t realize until getting the store in order. She said the major stuff was simple—what wasn’t was the tedium of un-boxing supplies, pricing every item, organizing and rearranging, creating craft works to hold the items, painting, electrical work, installing signs and other projects. 

 

In order to accomplish it all, Hostetler had a lot of help. 

 

That help came from experienced business owner Ed Josten, who told Hostetler she should make a scale model of the store and put thought into where shelves and items would go. Hostetler did exactly that, creating a floor plan that is open, navigable and not overwhelming to shoppers. 

 

Hostetler’s mom marked prices, while her dad helped build specialized shelving units and cousin Greg created and installed the logo on the outside of the store. Even the family cat helped, since Birdie’s is named after Birdie the cat. Hostetler described Birdie as loving and adventurous, but said the cat would not make any in-store appearances to avoid animal hijinks. 

 

Hostetler expects positive results, but added that, while being profitable is always a goal to remain open, this is also a passion rather than something she is doing to get rich. She wanted to own a business, and as time went on, it was a decision that had to be made or it would become a missed opportunity.

 

Hostetler took the leap, and she took it in Elkader, which she labeled “the place to be,” with a community full of people who are helpful and supportive. That included the Jostens, who listened to her idea and helped her achieve it, as well as economic development director Samantha Baumgartner, who helped find the perfect, centralized location to provide the greatest chance of success. 

 

Even the dedicated following Birdie’s has on Facebook in such a short time expresses how popular the store is, even as it just opened this past weekend. 

 

For anyone looking to venture to Birdie’s, whether for pet supplies or just the experience, Hostetler said tentative store hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, then noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday. The business will be closed on Wednesdays. 

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