By Erika Giovanetti
May 28, 2013. Last Saturday marked WingN’It Bird Supply Center’s first official business day at their new location, the iconic Red Caboose at the entrance of Banner Elk. The Grand Re-Opening was successful, according to owners Edi and Ric Crosby.
“All weekend, we had record sales. We had so many people in town coming in to see the inside of the building. At our new location, people are able to walk here from the festivals and fairs,” said Edi Crosby.
Edi and Ric first bought Snow Toys Ski and Snowboard Rental, a business that had already been open for a decade, two winters ago. Practically no snow fell that first winter, so they had a rough opening season. Edi then decided to move the skiing and snowboarding supplies into storage during the summer, so that they could open a different business during the warmer months.
When brainstorming business ideas, Edi noticed that there wasn’t a bird store in the area. After doing research, she decided to open a bird supply store. She knew that for her business to succeed, she had to go beyond the bird store concept and have what Ric calls a “destination location.”
“The other bird stores have been around in years past, but they’ve closed down. That’s when I decided to do the whole gamut,” said Edi. “I wanted to do bird supplies, but I also wanted to sell gifts, for inside and outside; wind chimes, candles, garden flags, and just combine it all together. Now I can have a more full-ranged gift store. We have fudge and Hershey’s ice cream, too.”
Edi Crosby realized how difficult it was for someone in Banner Elk to buy a gift without having to drive out to Boone or Blowing Rock. As a result of the move to the Red Caboose, Banner Elk’s downtown area now offers a gift shop.
WingN’It is the destination for bird and garden lovers in the area. It’s the only shop of its kind in Banner Elk and offers birdseed, feeders and houses. The eclectic shop also offers gifts for the home and garden, local artisan crafts and more, and the inventory is updated weekly.
“Every week, I’m getting something new in,” said Edi. “It’s a different shopping experience every time you come in.”
The Red Caboose, known formally as Clinchfield Caboose 1024, started off at the Hampton Railroad Car Company of Hampton, Indiana in 1948. The caboose made nearly five thousand trips between Spartanburg, S.C., and Elkhorn, Ky., until its retirement in 1964.
In 1971, Oscar G. Mason III bought the caboose and had it delivered to Banner Elk. From there, he turned the train car into a men’s and women’s clothing store. Since then, the caboose has been seen a variety of small businesses.
With the move finalized, WingN’It will operate year round. Snow Toys will stay at its old location and stay open during the winter months, November through mid-March. Edi said that she and her husband were brainstorming ideas on a new business to run during the summer where Snow Toys is located.
Snow Toys is a ski and snowboard rental store with a mission dedicated to customer service. Many bigger places leave customers on their own, without the personal attention needed for a successful rental experience.
“We want to make sure those boots are okay on that child. We have them walk around and make sure it fits before they’re out there and uncomfortable and have a bad experience,” Edi Crosby said.