ALVIN, Texas – (By Dale King) – Singer/songwriter Paul Simon once vocalized: “Someone told me it’s all happening at the zoo.”
Actually, something unique is happening at the Bayou Wildlife Zoo in Alvin, Texas, a town in Galveston County about 20 miles south of Houston. The 80-acre parkland that houses 500 exotic birds and animals and draws more than 90,000 visitors a year is up for sale.
For the tidy sum of $7 million, a new owner can walk away with an established business, 15 lakes and ponds, a “barndominium” apartment, covered picnic area with seating for for 400, 16 barns, a souvenir shop, six restrooms and a cornucopia of zoo-related paraphernalia, said Carolyn Spencer, the listing agent who works for Bayou Realtors.
Five months ago, the owner, Clint Wolston, now age 80, decided it was time to retire. So, after some three decades of collecting and displaying animals at his Bayou Wildlife Zoo, he decided it was time for some creature comforts of his own.
Spencer said Wolston doesn’t want the preserve to be disbanded. He has stipulated that the new owner should continue to operate the facility as a place where the public can stop in to visit with lots of varied species, great and small.
This is no simple backyard menagerie. The Bayou Wildlife Zoo employs 10 people involved in caring for animals and handling visitors. The place takes in about a million dollars a year in revenue and runs at about a 30% profit.
“In 2014, the zoo had a total of 90,000 visitors. Just last week, 7,000 people came by,” said Spencer. Patrons can view and even feed the animals from a tram, visit a souvenir shop and have a picnic on the way out, among other things.
The listing agent, who said she knew Wolston from school, said he came to her last November and asked her to put the property on the market. Spencer said many potential buyers have come forward, but all have struggled to put together financing for the property.
She has gotten several calls from zoos, and even one from a crocodile farm.
The for-sale animal attraction is listed on the MLS website and other listing sites and there’s a Facebook page about the zoo opportunity. While Spencer is still looking for the deal that will work, she’s not discouraged, saying it is not unusual for a large, commercial property to remain on the market for five months or longer.
She said Wolston is married, but he and his wife have no children and there are no relatives to take over. She said the attraction is fairly well known in the area of Alvin, a community just south of Houston, a metropolis sometimes called the “Bayou City.”
The zookeeper said he began collecting animals some 30 years ago. Eventually, he had enough to open a zoo. Over the years, he added the 45-minute tram rides, the souvenir shop and picnic area.
“Developing the zoo and obtaining the animals has been an exciting and educational experience,” he said. “By living with the animals for the past 30 years, I’ve learned things not found in many books.”
On view at the zoo, said Spencer, are animals from 19 different countries in Africa, Asia, Australia, North and South America. Sixty different species of birds also call the preserve their home.
“We also have endangered animal species in our park,” said Wolston, including banteng cattle, white rhinoceroses, gaur cattle, ring-tailed lemurs, Bactrian camels, Pere David deer and addaxes (screwhorn antelope). The location is also home to giraffes (including a newborn that arrived last month), zebras, ostriches, alligators and kangaroos.
The facility also has a petting zoo, and kids weighing less than 90 pounds can ride a medium-sized pony for a three-minute, guided jaunt around the riding ring.
A zillion properties are listed for sale in America. But there’s only one zoo.
April 7, 2017 Realty News Report Copyright 2017