Duck Call Devotion: Parish Waterfowl Company blends faith, fellowship and family heirloom pieces
Published 1:42 pm Friday, February 4, 2022
A historic building at the end of Washington Street will soon get a new lease on life with the opening of Parish Waterfowl Company.
Brad Eldridge, a Delhi, La., native, plans to turn his love for duck hunting into a business venture through the shop, which will sell handmade duck calls, unique hunting apparel and feature an espresso bar. Eldridge said he first fell in love with duck hunting — and duck calling — more than 20 years ago, but it wasn’t until about two years ago that he became involved in the world of custom duck calls.
“What sets my calls apart is that they’re handmade from a block of wood, and they’re not so much a tool as they are an heirloom piece that can be passed down,” he said. “(When I first went duck hunting with my father), I found my great uncle’s original Duck Commander call at his camp that was dilapidated. We happened to walk in there and saw a set of calls hanging on deer antlers, and they had dirt dauber nests all over them.
“I took them back to our camp, cleaned them up and we passed them around,” he added. “All the others said, ‘Well, Brad sounds the best, so he’s our caller.’ We shot a bunch of ducks and after that, I was obsessed with only duck hunting.”
Eldridge’s first foray into the commercial side of duck hunting came when he began using part of his home, the old Mound Hotel, as an Airbnb. In addition to hosting guests, he started offering an experience wherein visitors could take part in the call-making process, participate in a duck hunt and receive professional photographs of the hunt.
“It just took off,” he said.
The idea for call-making came when one of Eldridge’s best friends had a child in need of a liver transplant. To benefit the family, he auctioned off a handmade duck call and hunting excursion.
There were more than 1,300 entries, he said, with people clamoring to support a good cause and own a custom piece of hunting equipment.
“I collected calls for about two years before I ever had the desire to turn a call,” he said. “The catalyst for me was, I had a friend who had a daughter who needed a liver transplant. They were having to go to Houston very often because she was so sick. We had a benefit, raised $13,000, had a call-making buddy with a mobile shop on site. We killed a bunch of ducks that weekend and it was just a magical time.
“I was already doing the Airbnb, and I thought about how I could combine all these experiences from that weekend together,” he said.
When it came time for a career change, Eldridge said he started looking at ways to make a living out of doing something he loves most.
He spent more than two years honing his craft and learning about call-making before Parish Waterfowl Company came to fruition, and when he approached building owner Kelle Barfield with his business plan, Eldridge said the pieces began falling into place.
“When I walked (Barfield) through and told her what I was doing, her eyes lit up,” Eldridge said. “In November 2021, I started turning calls in this space.”
In addition to custom duck calls, Eldridge will also sell a curated selection of outdoor items. The shop will be an official Camoretro retailer, stocked with camouflage patterns and styles that are long out of circulation, and even Ducks Unlimited T-shirts from the 1990s and beyond.
They will also be part of the resurgence of the brand DuxBak, offering hand-sewn waxed canvas apparel and branded items.
Above all else, Eldridge said his Christian faith plays a role in every aspect of his business. When incorporating the coffee bar concept into his business model, he did so with the mindset that Parish Waterfowl Company can be a gathering place for members of the community and even youth groups and Bible studies.
The store will be open seven days a week, but Eldridge said he still wanted to honor Sunday as the Lord’s day. So, in collaboration with his pastor at Triumph Church, Sundays at the shop will include live-streamed services and worship music.
Parish Waterfowl Company is preparing to open sometime in the next couple of months, at 1100 Washington Street in the space formerly occupied by the Southern Cottage gift store. For Parish Waterfowl Company’s grand opening, Eldridge is planning to have a ceremony and a duck-calling contest at the Old Depot Museum on Levee Street.
“Having the coffee shop in here gives people a hub for fellowship, and provides a space where I can have Bible studies, youth nights and tie it to coffee and hunting,” Eldridge said. “I’m working with my pastor, Mike Fields, to have his services broadcast as a satellite coffee and worship experience each week.”