Store History

Store History Photo

The Backyard Bird Center’s origins have to be looked at from two different directions. The retail store itself was founded by Dale Beuhl in the late 80s. His original shop was located in downtown Parkville. Dale built the business and moved it a couple of times before settling into the Picture Hills shopping center off of Hwy 45. Dale’s back problems convinced him to sell the business in 1999 to John and Carol Phillips. John and Carol modernized the business systems, changed the name to the Backyard Bird Center and moved it to the Boardwalk Square Shopping Center.

In December of 2001 Mark was shopping for a Christmas present at the Noggin Noodle toy store that was located in Boardwalk Square when he saw the Backyard Bird Center sign. He decided to stop in and “check it out”. He purchased an adjustable deck arm, but more than that, he struck up a conversation about the business with John and Carol. As he was leaving, he gave John a business card and assured him that if they ever thought about selling that he and his wife may be interested.

“I must have been pretty convincing because I got a call from John the next day”.  Mark and Melanie McKellar turned the key on the door as owners on March 1, 2002. The About Mark section has a more detailed biography but given Melanie’s background as an accountant and Mark’s background as a Wildlife Biologist, they thought they made a pretty good team.

John Burwell was working at the Backyard Bird Center on a limited basis when we bought the store but I had known John for several years. We first met when I was director at Martha Lafite Thompson Nature Sanctuary in Liberty when John’s son Jessie was looking for an Eagle Scout project. I worked with them through the project (which was a huge help for MLTNS) and John started coming to my bird walks. I knew I wanted him to continue working for us. John’s years of birding and nature study experience made him a real asset to our team. He is also a fellow Eagle Scout and longtime volunteer with scouting.

The first person I called when we decided to purchase the store was Ruth Simmons. We moved to Kansas City in January of 1992 and Ruth was one of the first friends I made here. I had started a series of bird hikes every Thursday morning called “Early Birders” and Ruth was one of two participants that attended pretty much every week. Saying Ruth is a product of the Mark School of Birding is an understatement. Ruth returned to school a few years ago and completed her biology degree and did her field work toward a master’s degree in biology. Ruth has volunteered countless hours banding birds, conducting breeding bird surveys and working on various nature related causes.

I started as director of the Martha Lafite Thompson Nature Sanctuary in March of 1994. Just a couple of weeks into the job (and the school group season), my naturalist broke one of her big toes and couldn’t hike the trails. Luckily there was a dynamic volunteer naturalist there who worked over and beyond so that we didn’t have to turn groups away. That volunteer was Joyce Braddock. Yes, the same Joyce who you see in the store. Joyce came to work for us in 2006 after leaving AirTran Airways. Joyce has also been a nature enthusiast for many years and brought with her a background in the gift world as well.

We have also been lucky to have some great “weekend” staff over the years. Many of you will remember Michael Palaska. Michael is married with two beautiful children and lives in the Springfield area. Galen Dods is in college in Wisconsin studying to be a Virologist. Mason Auch is in college at Missouri S&T in Rolla and still a key part of our team. He was crucial part of the re-development of this website. Andrew Herdman has worked for us for the past few years and continues to fill in when he is home from Truman State. Weekends these days are split between Aaron Herdman and our son Matthew.

Melanie and I are very lucky to have such a wonderful staff. A luxury that many small business owners do not enjoy. It has been expressed to me many, many times over the years – it is our staff and the knowledge they bring that set us apart from other “like” businesses.

Under Construction!

We have more birds and information coming soon! Thank you for your patience!