1947: Boyhood friends, Bill Jones and Rich Gillingham, start a war surplus in an old garage on the corner of Harrison and Yew in Centralia, Washington. They call it Two Yard Birds Surplus with two “Sad Sack” characters as store mascots.
1947: In November Bill and Rich move their enterprise north of the Chehalis city limits, on Highway 99. Open 9 am to 8 pm, every day, Bill and Rich, and their wives, Katy and Hazel, work 18 hours a day. Soon Two Yard Birds Surplus was being touted as the “Largest Surplus Store on the West Coast”. With unusual advertising, eclectic merchandise and an offbeat sense of humor the store draws customers from all over the state.
1947: Dick Baker is hired. Additional Quonset huts expand the Two Yard Birds Surplus.
1948: Opening just in time for the Christmas rush, a building is added to house the biggest Toyshop for miles around.
1958: The store, now known as Yard Birds, is 110,000 square feet, with 16 departments and 5 business leasing space within the store.
1959: Bill and Rich purchase an old cannery in Olympia to start a sister store. This store is called Seamart. Later it takes on the Yard Birds name.
1969: Construction begins on a giant, 60 ft sculpture of a Yard Bird, the store’s new mascot, to welcome to the new Yard Birds store.
1971: The colossal new Yard Birds store, with 305,000 square feet and 350 employee, opens just up the road. The new store boasts a boggling array of merchandise: automotive, sporting goods, hardware, housewares, furniture, shoes and clothing for the whole family, a restaurant with Birds’ Nest cocktail lounge and a car wash. Some of the leased spaces include: A country and western store, Linda Wagner’s School of Dance, Twin City Radio and TV, a bank, a grocery store, a drug store, an arcade, optometrists and Army and Navy recruiting offices.
1971: A 60 ft sculpture of a Yard Bird, which can be seen from I-5, is erected at the entrance to the new Yard Birds store. Made of steel, with wire framework covered in 800 pounds of fiberglass, visitors can drive their cars through its legs on their way out of the store.
1971: In January 6 inches of water flood Yard Birds.
1976: In March of this year, Rich Gillingham crashes his plane at Copalis Beach. The damaged plane is accidentally dropped when being airlifted by a helicopter – eliminating any chance of repair. Ever mindful of new and exciting promotions for the store, Bill and Rich display the wreckage at Yard Birds.
1976: Rich Gillingham sells his interest in both Yard Birds stores to Bill Jones. Rich gets the title to the old Yard Birds building, which comes to be called Sunbirds. Gillingham partially retires, building a house in Fords Prairie and playing the drums at the local dance hall.
1976: In June the Pay-N-Save Corporation buys the Chehalis Yard Birds store for $8.5 million dollars. Bill Jones retires to 110-acre farm off Martin Way.
1976: Wayne Honeycut’s car catches fire under the giant 60 ft sculpture of a Yard Bird. With in minutes the statue is burnt to a crisp.
1979: Yard Birds Shelton is opened.
1979: Ever the entrepreneur, Bill Jones starts Jones Quarry. He goes on to develop other businesses throughout Thurston and Lewis County.
1987: The Employee Stock Ownership Plan swings a $12 million dollar deal to purchase Yard Birds from the Pay-N-Save Corporation. In 1987 employee stock is worth $17.50 per share by 1995 it is at 16 cents per share.
1990: In January, heavy rains and a broken dike flood Yard Birds Chehalis with more than 18 inches of water. The store closes for eight days. The flood causes an estimated $1.1 million dollars in damage.
1992: Rich Gillingham passes away.
1993: Yard Birds Olympia closes.
1995: Chairman of the Board, George Lee confirms the closure of Yard Birds Chehalis. Employees loose thousands of dollars in personal investments. Many lessees decide to stay on at Yard Birds location, hoping that things will turn around.
1995: Yard Birds Shelton closes.
1996: A dam breaks and floods the Lewis County area, including Yard Birds Chehalis, so badly that FEMA is flown in to help.
1998: Darris McDaniel and Ray Caldwell purchases Yard Birds Chehalis.
2003: Bill Jones passes away.