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Birdhouses bring pleasure and profit

Staff writer

There are advantages to owning one’s own business. Keith Banman is the boss at Keith’s Foods in Goessel, and on days when he does grocery business in Wichita, he often takes advantage of time and location to visit an estate sale or two.

“I love to scrounge around for little trinkets, old doorknobs, decorative hardware, jewelry, stuff like that,” he said. “It’s something I really enjoy, and it’s not like the boss is going to fire me.”

Banman, a hometown fixture for many years beginning when he managed Goessel’s lone grocery store, then known simply as “Coop”, purchased the enterprise six years ago. He renamed the store and side-catering business Keith’s Foods, and serves local customers as well as groups in Marion, Harvey, and Sedgwick counties.

What many people do not know about Banman is that he is also a carpenter with a creative streak, building furniture shelving, dollhouses, Christmas-lantern light holders, and birdhouses, and decorating them with his estate sale finds.

“I make outdoor stuff,” he said. “I just started playing with scraps of wood like door trim, old barn wood, and came up with these decorative bird houses.”

Banman does not actually make the birdhouses to house real birds.

“That would take a little more research and time than I actually have,” he said. “I would need to know exact hole measurements and invest more in treated wood so it would last. I just like to make the decorative kind.”

As it is, Banman estimates he puts no more than $5 in each birdhouse he makes, not counting labor.

“Sometime I might pay $3 for an antique glass door knob that looks cool,” he said. “But mostly I just use stuff other people are throwing away. I really enjoy searching for stuff and then looking for a way to make it useful again.”

Banman gives birdhouses to friends and relatives and enjoys sharing them with his grandchildren. He makes special order requests too.

“I have two grandsons in Topeka, two granddaughters in Minnesota, and two grandsons in Chicago,” he said. “Sometimes I will make the raw birdhouses and then take a box of knickknacks with me; and then I let them pick how they want to decorate their own birdhouses. They always enjoy that.”

Banman sells a few birdhouses in his Goessel store for an average price of $25 each, but he also donates several each year to the annual Mennonite Central Committee sale, where they are auctioned to raise funds. Money raised is donated to aid worldwide hunger.

“I’ve been doing this for two years with MCC,” he said. “Last year some sold for $35, and some went as high as $75. That’s not bad for a $5 investment.”

Banman said he also donated handmade furniture and a wooden dollhouse to the MCC sale in past years, but he was disappointed with the results.

“I put in hours and hours on that dollhouse,” he said. “Plus it took a lot of expensive supplies, and then it only sold for $100. I get much more satisfaction out of looking for items to make these unique birdhouses, and then selling them.”

Banman said it took about two hours to construct one birdhouse, but less time if he did several at a time. One year he made several three-section condominium birdhouses and those took more time. This year he has already completed eight for the April 14 and 15 MCC sale in Hutchinson.

Since he spends 50 to 75 hours each week at the grocery store, and often caters two or three dinners on weekends, time for wood craft projects like decorative birdhouses can be limited.

“I have to fit in with working,” he said. “Running a business can be a real drag, but really, I enjoy most of it, especially when I can get out and about and find some more things to build with.”

Last modified March 28, 2012

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