Sisters Monique Paajanen and Danielle Aude
BY HUGH KRUZEL
Sisters Monique Paajanen and Danielle Audet had high hopes when they opened The Backyard Birder in 1997. It was a fresh entrepreneurial venture; they are now on the cusp of celebrating two decades of commercial collaboration.
Chris Blomme, Laurentian University biology technologist and Sudbury Living contributor, calls The Backyard Birder, “probably the only one-stop shop for birders and enthusiasts. Monique and Danielle go out of their way to fill the needs of customers.”
“I had taken another course on making a business plan, and when combined with a passion, it just seemed a natural next step,” offers Paajanen.
“We always saw it as a family business and we have had a lot of help along the way,” says Audet. “Together we make a really great team. We are sisters, but individually our strengths are more than one plus one. We are only one year apart (in age) and we have always been close.”
Their father, Jean Paul, used to construct many of the birdhouses they had for sale, and Jonathan, Danielle’s son, frequently helps out during the seasonal rush.
Paajanen’s husband, Tapio, always provides a willing helping hand shifting the big bags of seed. The retired Sudbury police officer also has knowledge of the many bird species here in Sudbury.
“I’ve been watching birds since I was a kid in Finland,” he says.
While local birding enthusiasts were delighted with the arrival of The Backyard Birder, it also demonstrated another positive shift in how Sudbury viewed its interaction with the environment. First, there were revegetation projects; soon wildlife and diversity returned. Check out any bird feeder and be amazed at the activity.
Its current home on Long Lake Rd., at the Four Corners has grown in scope and selection. Certainly you can find all things bird-related, and seasonal change is reflected in the bags of seed, (black oil sunflower for cardinals, nyger for goldfinches, through to peanuts for blue jays and whiskey jacks), all easily accessed by the side door. There are hummingbird concentrates, ethical suet, feeders of all sorts, and ingenious anti-squirrel poles and exclusion devices too, and so much more.
The store is the source for gift ideas, garden accoutrement, and outdoor decor. Sun catchers, metal art, wind chimes, and even cans of maple syrup line the shelves. There are aisles of ideas. Billed as the “Nature Gift Shop,” all of the items on display have a botanical, and if possible an environmental/ecological theme.
Flattened silver spoons with the name of your crop stamped in make for unique and durable row markers; this sure beats popsicle sticks and a Sharpie marker.
Cutting boards to chocolates to candles; you cannot go in and come out without making a
Where possible, Canadian – and specifically Northern Ontario manufactured and hand-made products – are featured. A subtle overlap of departments includes gifts for weddings, new baby, colleagues’ birthdays/promotions, and significant points in the life journey.
Both sisters echo: “Our giftware really cuts across the demographic. We are always attending industry shows and scouring trade magazines for inspiration to bring back home.”