Cathy Fleischacker and Pam Dymsza’s Wild Birds Unlimited store in Albuquerque, New Mexico was open only one month when business was unexpectedly put on hold.
In July 2016, Dymsza suffered a major heart attack and hemorrhagic stroke. As Dymsza began her long and intensive process of recovery, suddenly, Fleischacker was faced with uncertainty—she was challenged with running their young business alone. And yet, despite the daunting road ahead, Fleischacker never once thought she wouldn’t be able to continue running the store. Instead, she was committed to charging forward. That’s when she turned to the very thing that drew her to Wild Birds Unlimited in the first place—its people.
“When Pam and I were looking for the right franchise to invest in, we kept going back to Wild Birds Unlimited. This was a brand whose owners seem to radiate happiness. And a large part of that is due to the people supporting them,” Fleischacker said. “Wild Birds Unlimited’s Franchise Support Center is dedicated to you and your business. They’re dedicated to walking you through the process as first-time owners. They’re dedicated to getting your store set up and operating. And, most importantly, they’re dedicated to helping you through any unique roadblocks along the way. We saw that promise come to fruition. This is a brand truly dedicated to putting its people and their individual success first.”
Within a matter of days, Fleischacker had received a call from Anne Schmauss and Dawn Graber—two Wild Birds Unlimited owners with a store in nearby Santa Fe--and from Mary Schmauss, owner of the east Albuquerque store
“They were on the phone immediately asking how they could help us. People just don’t display that kind of honest kindness anymore,” Fleishacker said. “We had to close our store for three days to regroup and figure out our next steps. At one point, we weren’t sure how quickly we’d be able to get our stores back open again. But the owners in Santa Fe offered to help in any way possible. They helped us get our orders placed so we could stay open. They came over to help us figure out a plan and actually worked in the store with us. Mary from Albuquerque even coordinated having one of her team members working in the store during this trying time. It was an amazing moment to realize we had the support of these women we had only known for a few months. We were bonded by our love for this brand, and that’s what brought us together. In a way, it felt like an extended family.”
The support that Fleischacker and Dymsza received during this trying time wasn’t limited to local franchisees—Wild Birds Unlimited’s franchise support center team was quick to offer any help they could. After Flesichacker called up Paul Pickett, the brand’s chief development officer, to tell him what happened, almost immediately, she was receiving calls from the entire staff. Whether it was Patti Causemaker, their business coach; Amy Moore, the director of retail operations; Pat Perkinson, the chief operating officer; or Jim Carpenter himself, the founder and CEO, every single one of them wanted to personally check in to see how Fleischacker and Dymsza were doing and to offer support in any way possible.
“I worked with many franchisees before, and the people-first idea that fuels Wild Birds Unlimited isn’t something you normally see. It was clear to us that Wild Birds Unlimited and its Franchise Support Center are focused on making its franchisees as successful as possible,” Fleischacker said. “Every single person in the Wild Birds Unlimited system was genuinely concerned. They took to the time to check in. And they let us know that they were here for us. I don’t believe we would have been able to get through this without them.”
Today, both Fleischacker and Dymsza are proud to say that a sense of normalcy has started to return to their Wild Birds Unlimited location in Albuquerque. Dymsza has returned to the store, handling a lot of the behind-the-scenes operations, like managing their Facebook page and finances, while Fleischacker runs the front of the store. For Dymsza, being able to once again spend her days at Wild Birds Unlimited has become the best form of rehab and therapy. She continues to check in regularly with the brand’s franchise support center team, too, and with their continued help, she’s optimistic that despite this recent obstacle, their Wild Birds Unlimited store will be bigger and stronger than ever.
“It was an inspiring experience for us—to see this entire system come together to help us during a challenging time was very moving. It put us in a position of wanting to excel. We were driven to do that from day one, but now, we’re more determined than ever,” Dymsza said. “This year, we’re going to knock it out of the park. We call it a little speed bump along the way. We’ve regained our momentum. And now, our goal is to have an incredible first year.”