Alexis Highland has had a love for raising birds ever since they were her family pets growing up in Warrenville.
That led to going away to college and a memorable study abroad trip in Costa Rica, where the sound of free flying macaws in the forest brought her to tears.
Highland and her mom, Joyce Ernst, have raised birds at home and sold them at bird fairs for the last 10 years. Now their hobby has led them to running a new bird shop in downtown Arlington Heights.
Parrot Stars, an exotic bird/avian specialty store at 111 N. Arlington Heights Road, will hold its formal grand opening this weekend, with a ribbon tying with Mayor Tom Hayes at noon Saturday, lectures by avian specialists and face painting.
The shop, which had its soft opening in February, already has received steady foot traffic from longtime bird-lovers and first-time buyers alike. It also has an active online presence that's led to clients from as far away as Alaska and Seattle.
No matter who the prospective buyer is, Highland says she conducts an extensive interview process to make sure a particular bird species is right for them.
"We work hard to educate people," she says. "We try to evoke (that) this is a huge commitment. It's essentially like adding a family member."
The shop has about 100 birds at a time from some 25 different species, bred at a property downstate and from breeders across the country. Parrot Stars recently purchased a property in Florida to breed larger birds.
Prices for a feathered friend can range from $200 to $20,000, depending on how rare the bird is.
The store also offers bird food, toys and accessories.
Highland said Parrot Stars' owner chose the location in Arlington Heights to be accessible to people coming from various directions. The one-story building, formerly a day care and printing company, underwent interior renovations, including new floors, cabinets, lighting and ventilation systems.