Alumni Spotlights

Salvatore, ’03, and Jaime (Goodness) Salafia, ’03: Giving Wings to a New Business

November 11, 2019 by Lisa McMahon, M.A.'09

Salvatore Salafia, ’03, with a feathered friend.

Salvatore Salafia, ’03, with a feathered friend.

Salvatore, ’03, and Jaime (Goodness) Salafia, ’03, have been together since the seventh grade, when they met in a home and careers class. They dated through high school and decided to attend Niagara University together to pursue business degrees. A week after they graduated, they married. They both found careers with the family RE/MAX real estate business—Sal as a residential realtor, and Jamie in operations—and later, launched Jalvo Property Management, which maintains more than $2 million dollars in residential real estate annually.

But when Sal decided to share his passion for exotic birds by opening a store, it was something he initially pursued alone.

“Jamie used to pacify the idea by suggesting that we open the store when we retire,” Sal said.

While Sal’s successful real estate business grew, and he earned numerous awards and induction into the RE/MAX International Hall of Fame, he collected ideas and the names of vendors in a “secret file” that he kept in his office. In 2017, he decided to move forward with his pet store dreams and purchased $6,000 in live birds. 

“It was a major surprise to Jamie,” he said. 

Within just a few weeks, Sal had sold all the birds, and Exotic Pet Birds and Gifts was born. Initially operated from their home, the company quickly grew, achieving nationwide sales in both livestock and incidentals, such as food and equipment.

Today, the business has 12 employees and is a destination for avicultural enthusiasts from around the country, serving customers located in 29 of the 50 states. It offers a full line of floral options and gifts for nature lovers along with its domestically raised exotic birds and supplies, and recently moved to a new, 7,000 square foot location in Webster, N.Y., that will eventually house the company’s breeding facility.

Jamie has since joined Sal in managing the business, and the couple says they draw upon the logistics, accounting, and human resource skills they developed as undergraduates at Niagara University to tackle the day-to-day operations. They have supplemented this knowledge by taking courses to become certified avian specialists, and have paid for their management team to complete the training, as well.

“We decided that we would invest in the education of aviculture for both ourselves and our employees,” Sal said. “We did this because we wanted to show our customer base that we are dedicated to our specialty.”

That dedication is evident in the referrals they receive from past customers, other pet stores, and even veterinarian employees, who appreciate the special services EP Birds and Gifts offers, such as free grooming and training for the life of the birds acquired through them. Through the use of the marketing techniques Sal learned in his real estate business, including FaceTime, they have been able to connect with bird lovers across the country, including broadcast journalist and television talk show host Tamron Hall, who adopted her bird from the store.

The Salafias also are committed to sharing their success with those in need. They donate 10% of the sales from their bird food company, Uccello Food Products, to the communities that helped them grow. And this year, after a foreclosed property they were preparing to purchase was destroyed by the distraught owner, Sal donated the $10,000 deposit to four organizations that help individuals who are displaced from their homes--Open Door Mission, Rochester Center for Youth, Lolly Pop Farms, and 211 Life Line.

“We believe strongly that the Vincentian teachings helped guide our lives,” Sal said.  “Jamie and I are both very blessed to have all we have, (and) we find ways to give back to those less fortunate.”

“NU was an amazing opportunity for us both and we not only grew professionally but as people while there,” he continued. “We look back at our years at Niagara University as some of the best in our life.”