Austin business is definitely for the birds

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 20, 2002

Wednesday, March 20, 2002

Milo’s Bird Nest, at 1002 W. Oakland Ave. isn’t just for the birds.

Or bird lovers, even.

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It’s a shop for artificial flowers, candles, house flags, lawn and garden ornaments, wall hangings, wind chimes, gourmet coffees, bird houses, bird feeders, bird seed and much more.

"It’s a one-stop shop without having grocery items," laughs Mickey Smith, shop manager. "We just kind of go with what our customers ask for. If there’s something someone is looking for and they don’t see it, we’ll order it for them. We order stuff for people all the time."

However, the store began as a bird supply and wreath shop. The store owner, Milo Mach, retired five years ago after operating a lawn and garden store for 33 years, but found "I always had to be kind of busy … and I got kind of lonesome. I always enjoyed the people and the customers so much."

As a result, he began selling birdseed and birdhouses, along with Christmas wreaths more than a year ago. When Smith joined the business last summer, "we branched out into the gift business. Basically, this is my second hobby. The first was the garden center. This shop branched into another one of my hobbies," Mach says. "The fun of being with the public is what I enjoy."

Smith says her parents used to work for Milo at the garden center and while she knew who Milo was, she didn’t personally know him very well until he stopped by her home one day when she was painting her living room. He liked the deep burgundy color she was using, so she sold him some of the paint and it helped jump-start their friendship.

When he asked her if she’d like to run the store, she gladly agreed and started expanding their inventory almost immediately. She began with artificial flowers.

Smith says she’s been arranging flowers since she was in her teens and has always been frustrated because "there was nowhere in town to go to get good florals and I really thought there should be some service for that."

She searched and searched and eventually found "good quality florals at a reasonable price," and began collecting other gift items for the shop as well.

"Basically, we go off of what our customers were inquiring about," she says. "We thought that if we were going to do birdseed and florals, it would be nice to have gift options."

"We cater more towards people who don’t have to spend $30 or $40 on a gift. We have lots of stuff for under $20 and we also carry a lot of real flowers (in the spring and summer), not just fake ones," Smith says. "We have bedding flowers in the spring-such as geraniums and impatients-and we will have hanging baskets."

Additionally, Smith makes house calls for people who are unsure of how to create a good floral arrangement. "There are so many people who don’t know how to put together a floral arrangement," that she saw a need for someone willing to work with customers and show them how to do it, she says.

"The house calls and labor are all free of charge, we only charge for the materials," she adds.

Pam Lonergan, from south of Rose Creek, would love to see them expand. "I probably stop in there once every other week … to see what she has that’s new," she says. "Eventually, I think it will be a pretty good shop. They’re just starting out, so I don’t know that they have quite the clientele, yet. If they expanded, I think it would be a really nice place."

Call Amanda L. Rohde at 434-2214 or e-mail her at