By Michael Davidson
Tucked away in a small building off Interstate-35 in Waco is Ramona’s Parrots: a small, locally owned pet store that offers a unique and specific service to its customers. As the name suggests, the store is in fact owned and operated by a woman named Ramona Parker, and yes, she loves parrots.
“Why did I decide to open a parrot store?” Parker said. “A long time ago, I got an African Gray parrot and I fell in love with him. I loved him so much that I decided this is what I want to do.”
That is just what she did, and to Parker, like many who turn a hobby into a job, her business means a lot more than just selling a product. Comparing parrots to children, Parker explained why this trade in particular means so much to her.
“I like to watch things grow,” Parker said. “Like trees: you plant a seed in the ground and look at what it does.”
Parker began her adventure in pet sales almost 20 years ago, initially working from her home in Waco.
There, on a three-acre plot of land she owns with her husband, she started not only selling parrots, but also offering grooming and boarding services.
About five years ago, however, she decided to move her business to a commercial storefront where she operates today.
The shop acts primarily as a “parrot specialization store,” selling many different species of the exotic bird.
Using the business’ website as reference, customers have come from around the country to purchase birds from Parker, even driving from places such as New Mexico and Missouri. Parker said choosing what type of parrot to purchase is not as easy of a task as it seems, as there are many species of the bird, each with their own unique traits and behavior types.
“When you come in the door looking for a bird, the first thing I want to know is what you expect of that bird,” Parker said. “Some birds are better with talking, and some are better with things like tricks. Most people want their bird to do it all, but that’s just not the way it works.”
Parker’s extensive knowledge and unique style of customer service has also built her a reputation in Waco, with her local customer base including Baylor students and Wacoans alike, all who trust her to treat their bird with care and respect.
“I’ve had my bird for three to four years now, and I always bring it to Ramona,” said Juana Rodriguez, a parrot owner and regular at Parker’s store. “She really knows how to groom and take care of the birds that come in.”
The store also offers much more than just the selling of parrots themselves.
In addition to selling other animals like puppies and hamsters, you can also find essential pet products, such as manuals on how to care for the animals, and basic supplies like food, cages and toys, many of which are custom made by Parker herself.
“I make about 75 percent of what I sell,” Parker said. “And if somebody wants a specific thing, they can tell me what they want, and we can try to make it.”
In addition to these products, one of the most valuable things Parker has to offer is her knowledge, which has come through almost 20 years of experience.
Though she is not a veterinarian, a point she stressed heavily, she is always willing to offer her help and advice to anyone who may need it.
“The store is open five days a week, but my phone is open seven days a week,” said Parker. “I’ve had a lot of experience with this in the past 20 years, and I will always do my best to offer what I would do in a certain situation if it were my bird.”
Ramona’s Parrots is located at 2420 South Jack Kultgen Expressway and is open Tuesday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.