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You’ve Got What It Takes: From the Navy to Wild Bird Centers

“In the navy, I was responsible for the lives of the people working for me,” he says, “not just in terms of danger, but also counselling them, giving advice and serving in a parental role for the young recruits who were far away from their families.”

With his store, on the other hand, Chris gets to rediscover the joy of birding each time a new customer visits.

“There are no angry customers in a bird store!” he says. “The environment is welcoming, everybody’s happy, it’s an overall great experience.”

Wild Bird Centers expects a second Canadian store to open in Delta, B.C., by mid-2012. Chris cites the province as the perfect market for the concept.

“British Columbia has a higher number of birders than other parts of Canada,” he says. “With our temperate weather, you can see birds in your backyard all year long.”

crop4How he got here:

  • Chris was born and raised in New Richmond, Que. With his father working for Parcs Quebec, he spent much of his childhood outside playing sports, riding a motorcycle and hunting. “The outdoors has always been a big part of my life,” he says.
  • Soon after starting to study science in college, Chris pursued his childhood dream of a military career. He learned English during basic training in Quebec and Nova Scotia before joining the navy in British Columbia. A trade course in communications led to a role as signalman on the HMCS Kootenay for five years.
  • Chris transferred to a naval reserve unit in Calgary, where he served for two years as regular support staff (RSS). “For a landlocked city, it had a strong naval spirit!” he says.
  • After a naval stint on HMCS Chignecto, a dedicated vessel for training young officers, Chris headed back east to work at a recruitment centre in Gatineau, Que. He took a career-counselling course and spent three years at the facility. “It took me away from the navy to a broader environment, where I saw different sides of the military than I had before,” he says.
  • In 1996, Chris returned to the west coast and boarded HMCS Regina as the senior naval commander. With two deployments to the Persian Gulf, he was away from his family for most of this nearly five-year tour.
  • Chris next handled training and quality control at Canadian Forces (CF) Fleet School Esquimalt before joining the navy’s Sea Training Pacific (STP) unit, which he describes as “the best group of people from each trade. It was an honour to be selected!”
  • While serving as chief naval communicator in Maritime Operations Group 4, Chris broke his foot in a judo-related accident. The nature of the fracture prevented him from meeting the navy’s minimum requirements for fitness, as he could no longer run in an annual test, so he was discharged on a medical release. “After 25 years with the navy, that was fine,” he says.
  • Chris had been researching a second career since 2000. With a recreational interest in birding, he became a Wild Bird Centers franchisee shortly after leaving the navy and opened his store on May 15, 2008.
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