Article26 Nesting Bowl1-001

John Johnson behind the counter at The Nesting Bowl, a pet store in Baltimore’s Waverly neighborhood. (AFRO Photo/Roberto Alejandro)

Water dragons, bearded dragons, iguanas, corn snakes, cane snakes, pythons, spiders, chinchillas, cockatoos, rabbits, and of course, puppies. It may not be your usual shopping list, but if any of these items are on yours, The Nesting Bowl, a pet shop in Baltimore’s Waverly neighborhood, features all of the above and more.

“We specialize in pigeons,” said owner John Johnson, who began raising pigeons when he was six years old, and who has raced pigeons competitively for 11 years. “Racing pigeons, tippler pigeons, fancy pigeons, we deal with a lot ofdifferent aspects of the pigeon world, the club world, racing and everything and so forth.”

Johnson is the president of the Maryland Tippler Flying Club, and said Baltimore’s racing scene is surprisingly competitive. While The Nesting Bowl is a one-stop shop for all things bird racing—they will even match novices with more experienced mentors who will help build and inspect their pigeon lofts—it is ultimately a place where city kids can come and learn about different kinds of animals.

“We basically aim the shop to please the kids and to really attract the kids and give them a new experience,” said Johnson. “A lot of children in the urban life don’t get a chance to be exposed to these certain things, and so we try to bring it to them and give them a different experience.”

Johnson notes that many people have had bad experiences with animals, and the shop is a chance to expose them to animals in a different way, educating them not only about the different species but about quality pet care as well.

“We specialize in pet care…any type of grooming items—shampoos, conditioners, stuff to make the animals smell good,” he said. “We’re really into the organic stuff, we try to keep the chemicals off the animals…and just educate the community on different animal care .”

Recently, the shop teamed up with Johns Hopkins for a “Bunnies on the Beach” event, part of The Nesting Bowl’s mission to expose Baltimoreans to a broader world of animals, and educate folks about proper care.

“You really have to start with the (animal care) basics,” Johnson said. “A lot of Black children are not exposed to these different types of animals and the proper care of them, so we really start with the basics. Even from the children to the adults.”

The Nesting Bowl is located at 3040 Greenmount Ave. in Baltimore’s Waverly neighborhood.