Birds of a Feather

Local business puts customer service first, and chooses a bank that does the same

Julie Bruser and Tom Saccomanno never planned to be business owners, but when the opportunity presented itself 10 years ago, they decided to take the chance. “When we moved to Galena, the home we bought had some bird feeders out back, so I went to the store for some seed,” explains Julie, current co-owner of Galena’s Wild Birds Unlimited store. “The then-owners were extremely helpful, and after being loyal customers for 10 years, Tom and I decided to buy the business when they were looking to sell.”

two women looking at shovelTo secure a commercial loan for the business acquisition, the couple turned to Illinois Bank & Trust (IBT). Julie and Tom have trusted IBT with their personal banking and mortgage relationship for several years and knew IBT would listen to their business plan with an open mind. “Being able to go into the bank and knowing almost everyone there is wonderful—there’s no intimidation factor that happens at the bigger banks,” says Julie.

Julie and Tom’s store in Galena is one of many Wild Birds Unlimited franchises across North America. The company specializes in creating and providing everything you need to attract wild birds to your yard, and shares the knowledge and products to help you attract the specific species you admire. Its slogan is “Bringing People and Nature Together,” and the company seems to have a knack for bringing people together with people, as well.

“We get a good amount of new customers through the tourist months, and have our loyal local customers who keep us busy during the winter,” explains Julie. “People love coming in and sharing pictures of the birds in their yards. We even have a board where they can show off the different species they’ve been able to attract and admire. It makes for a great environment in the store—everyone is so happy to see each other and interact.”

The Wild Birds Unlimited store exudes a sense of community that’s characteristic of the Galena area, and is a benefit the couple enjoys at IBT. “On a regular basis, our team sits down with Julie and Tom to review their business and personal relationship with IBT,” says Libby Miller, Market President. Julie and Tom’s team include Libby, Nikki Peebles in Treasury Management and Gavin Doyle, their Heartland Financial Wealth Advisor.

group of women in an antique shop“We were recently able to eliminate some bank fees and provide a Buy Local loan to help them with some projects,” adds Nikki. “Buy Local is a no-interest lending program we do each year to help folks in the Galena area with home projects and support local retail businesses with increased sales.”

With retail being one of the most challenging business types, that personal touch comes in extra handy. “They’re always telling us about new services and ways to avoid any fees,” says Julie. “In retail every cent counts, and it adds up for us! In our own business we understand that customer service is what creates customer loyalty—it’s great to get the same treatment from Illinois Bank & Trust.”

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