When Jason Bates was born, doctors told his parents he might not live to be 3 years old. Now he is 33.
The road has been a long one, but through it all, the Bates family has stuck together — and now they have a small family business, Bates Boozy Birds.
“Jason was born with complex congenital heart defects, and he’s had eight heart surgeries,” his mom, Marlene said. “When he was 4 he had a stroke during one of the surgeries, and that caused some developmental disabilities.”
But Jason continues to forge onward. When his Winfield neighbor suggested he build bird feeders, Jason was all in.
“He came up with an idea to build a block of wood with nails in it to hold suet, that he thought he could sell for $20,” Marlene said. “We didn't want to discourage him but also didn't think that was realistic.”
The family sat down together, determined to come up with something uniquely their own. The custom bird feeders and dispensers they designed are made from solid oak with liquor bottles. They started making them in March.
His dad Tom does the building. Jason does the assembling, staining and polyurethane. His mom books spaces at fairs, festivals and shows, and does their tax paperwork and other administrative duties.
“I wanted to build a quality product and also found a way to recycle bottles,” Jason said. “The support from local bars and wineries in our area has been great. I also found they can be used to dispense candy or peanuts and placed on a counter or bar. Having multiple uses is a good selling point.”
Tom has always worked with wood, so this was right up his alley.
“I started out as a carpenter,” he said of his work career. “I do love working with oak. We go to the shows, and I like that — seeing the different things people make and meeting new people.”
Jason and his parents say they could not do what they do without help from many local wineries and bars. Marlene said Patapsco Distilling Company has been incredibly receptive, helping them along the way and making it possible for people to order a product made from their favorite kind of wine, beer or liquor.
“We offer a variety of wine and liquor bottles from local wineries and bars, and we can also custom-make them to any special bottle someone may have,” Marlene said. “They make great housewarming gifts.”
“He is very goodhearted and would do anything for anyone,” Marlene said. “He has never used his disability as an excuse not to do things, he tries to prove that he can do things and to be a role model for others with disabilities. He also has a big garden and gives vegetables to our neighbors.”
Marlene said they support Jason’s varied interests, but when he wanted chickens, she said no. After she gave in, they built a custom chicken house.
“Needless to say, we now have chickens!” Marlene said with a smile. “But he takes total care of them. Our chicken house even won first prize in Chickens magazine.”
Marlene spoke of the hours that go into building just one birdhouse or dispenser.
“My husband cuts them, and then they get glued and have to dry. Then you stain them, and they need to dry, and then you have to [polyurethane] them and they have to dry. Then, you poly them again and they have to dry again.”
Jason doesn’t seem to mind the layers of work that go into each product.
“I enjoy making a product that is unique and very high-quality,” he said. “I enjoy building these with my Dad and Mom. I hope to continue this business for many years, and plan on adding Bates Boozy Squirrel Feeders in the near future.”
His parents say he has their full support.
“It is a great source of accomplishment and pride for Jason,” Marlene said. “We get to go to a lot of shows that we would not have gone to and we are meeting a lot of nice people, which is a good thing, because sometimes it’s easy to lose faith.”
“I love my kids and would do anything for them,” he said.
You can find Bates Boozy Birds products at Vine on Main Street, Bowman’s, and Glyndon Gardens. Also look for them at McDaniel College’s Common Ground on the Hill Roots and Arts Festival and the Maryland Wine Festival in September. Or order a custom product from them by emailing email@example.com.