‘I’m just happy to be done with it’: Yard Birds property sold to ‘investor,’ longtime owner says  


After attempting to sell the property where the now-vacant Yard Birds shopping mall stands at 2100 N. National Ave. in Chehalis, a sale has finally been closed, according to longtime owner Darris McDaniel. 

While McDaniel declined to disclose who the buyer is, how much the property sold for or what the buyer’s future plans are, he said the buyer is “an investor” who has been looking at the property for a while in a phone call with The Chronicle on Monday afternoon. 

In June 2023, the City of Chehalis’ Development Review Committee was expected to hear a proposed new use for 2100 N. National Ave., where the structure of Yard Birds and its roadside attraction remain. It was zoned as a commercial spot, but international developer Panattoni was eyeing the possibility of demolishing the building and erecting a 622,167-square-foot warehouse, which would require an “industrial” zoning designation.

Panattoni builds large warehouses for a long list of popular brands, according to its website.

It’s not clear whether the zoning change was ever finalized, nor is it confirmed Panattoni was the buyer referenced by McDaniel.

The property is listed online for $2.8 million. 

As of Monday, the Lewis County Parcels website had not yet been updated with sale details. 

Along with being a former co-owner of Yard Birds, McDaniel is also the co-owner of Shop’n Kart, a regional grocery store chain with locations in Centralia, Westport and Seaview. 

Yard Birds has been permanently closed since August 2022 after the building failed a Washington state Labor & Industries inspection and mounting unpaid utility bills led to the power in the building being cut. Business owners renting space inside subsequently received eviction notices. 

In total, some 50 small businesses, including thrift and antique stores, electronic stores, a barber shop and a blacklight minigolf course called Yard Birds home before it closed in 2022. While some businesses such as The Squirrel Hut Boutique and AllTech Electronics successfully reopened in other locations, many closed permanently. 

Earlier in 2022, the City of Chehalis filed a lawsuit against Peat LLC and R&D Research & Development LLC — which McDaniel is a part of — after Yard Birds failed to come into compliance upon receiving a number of code violations. 

Violations ranged from an insufficient fire sprinkler system to electrical issues stemming from a cryptocurrency mining operation that had been set up inside. The city voluntarily dismissed the lawsuit in March 2023. 

According to McDaniel, Yard Birds has had issues long before that due to damage resulting from repeated flooding events as the property is located within the floodplain. 

He first became involved with the property in 1990 when he opened the Chehalis Shop’n Kart location in Yard Birds and purchased the entire property in 1998 with the intention “to turn it into the Yard Birds of old,” as previously reported by The Chronicle.

That intention would be hard to realize as the rise of online shopping over the next decade saw the death of many big box retailers along with retail shopping malls like Yard Birds — a problem that was exacerbated in 2008 with the recession. 

In 2017, the Shop’n Kart location inside the mall was closed. 

“It’s been a crazy 34 years. I’m just happy to be done with it,” McDaniel said on Monday. 

A staple of Lewis County, Yard Birds was originally the idea of childhood friends Bill Jones and Rich Gillingham, who started a military surplus story in Centralia in 1947 called Two Yard Birds Surplus with two “sad sack” bird characters as store mascots.

By 1948, they had hired Dick Baker and expanded and moved the store north of the Chehalis city limits as they claimed it had become the largest surplus store on the West Coast. 

A decade later, the building was expanded to 110,000 square feet and featured 16 separate departments with five additional businesses leasing space inside.

Eventually, Yard Birds outgrew the space and moved to its current building in 1971 between Kresky and National avenues, which has over 300,000 square feet of space and boasted sales of everything from automotive parts and tools to housewares, furniture and clothing.

A 60-foot steel and fiberglass Yard Bird statue was also erected outside of the mall both as a tourist attraction and to let those driving on Interstate 5 know where Yard Birds was, but it burned down in 1976 after Wayne Honeycut’s car caught fire underneath it. Another large Yard Bird remains on the property’s west entrance today.

Other Yard Birds malls were opened in Olympia and Shelton, but both closed by 1995.

For a full history of Yard Birds and more information about the old shopping mall, visit https://www.yardbirdshistory.com/timeline/