A man built a tiny picnic table for squirrels in his garden after losing his job, and now it's become a full-time business

© Rick Kalinowski

By Anneta Konstantinides, INSIDER

  • Rick Kalinowski has turned building miniature picnic tables for squirrels into a major quarantine trend.
  • Kalinowski got the idea while watching squirrels in his backyard one morning after his work shut down.
  • He created a table from scraps of wood lying around his house and snapped some photos after he got his first squirrel visitors.
  • The photos were shared thousands of times on Facebook, helping Kalinowski launch a very successful Etsy store to sell his adorable creations.

From whipping coffee to baking bread, people around the world are finding new ways to entertain themselves while stuck at home.

But no hobby has been more adorable than building tiny picnic tables for squirrels, a trend that first began thanks to a crafty Pennsylvania man.

Rick Kalinowski, 43, told Insider that he has always loved watching the squirrels in his yard, putting feeders out for them and taking photos to share on Facebook groups with fellow squirrel fans.

When Kalinowski's job shut down, he decided to make a miniature picnic table so that he could watch the local squirrels. Little did he know, that simple idea would launch a new trend and one very successful Etsy store. 

© Rick Kalinowski


Kalinowski recently had to stop working

The plumber and HVAC contractor suddenly had no idea when he'd get his next paycheck after Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolfe ordered "all non-life-sustaining businesses" to shut their doors on March 19.

"My jobs were larger construction jobs, and Pennsylvania put a stop to them," Kalinowski, who lives in Bryn Mawr, told Insider. "I was pretty much sitting at home, not sure when I'd get my next service call or be able to go back to work."

Then one morning as he was watching the squirrels in his backyard, Kalinowski got an idea.

© Rick Kalinowski


A couple of years ago, he had seen a photo of a miniature picnic table for squirrels

Kalinowski promised himself that he would build one if he ever had the time - and now he did.

"I do work with wood quite often," he said. "And, after I was home for two weeks, I was running out of things to do!"

Kalinowski found some extra scraps of wood lying around the house and built the tiny picnic table from memory.

"There were no plans, no drawings," he said. "I remembered what it looked like and just built it. Then I screwed it to the fence where I normally feed the squirrels."

Kalinowski first put out a variety of nuts to invite the squirrels to his new picnic table, but they kept taking the food to go instead of dining in. 

© Rick Kalinowski

"They'd take the nuts and run with them," he said. "But when I put sunflower seeds, they started sitting and eating."


Kalinowski was excited to see the squirrels enjoying the table, and snapped a few photos to share on the All About Squirrels group on Facebook

That night, Kalinowski and his husband Brett went on a walk around the neighborhood and talked about their financial situation.

"I said, 'I'm starting to get nervous,"' Kalinowski recalled. "I had a little money in the bank, but my husband is a restaurant server and out of work as well. I was getting nervous about rent." 


The very next morning, Kalinowski discovered that the photo of his squirrel picnic table had won thousands of fans all over the world

And many of them wanted a squirrel picnic table of their own.

"I was getting lots of friend requests and people sending me messages saying, 'I love your photo, would you build me one?'" Kalinowski said.

Kalinowski already had 60 orders when Brett suggested that they set up an Etsy store to make things easier to manage. Within the first 24 hours, SquirrellyTreasureCo had 400 orders.

"It all happened overnight, and it was beyond our wildest dreams," he said. "I'm still in disbelief."


Kalinowski first started selling his $25 picnic table, which comes with a feeder bowl and mounting hardware

He then added DIY kits to the store, which he said quickly became 50% of his orders.

"I predrill it, I give them the screws and parts with nice directions, and it's a family project that's perfect for people who are stuck at home right now," he said.

Kalinowski sells his building plans - which include directions and a pattern layout - on the Etsy store for $7. He has also donated the plans to various organizations so that they can be used in woodwork classes. 

© SquirrellyTreasureCo

The picnic table and DIY kit are so in demand that Kalinowski had to start a wait-list so that he can catch up on orders this week.


But Kalinowski said he has no plans to slow down his new squirrel picnic table business, even after restrictions are lifted and he can go back to work

"I have a solid plumbing business," he said. "But I'm seriously considering building this."

© SquirrellyTreasureCo
 
While the Etsy store has brought plenty of new opportunities, Kalinowski said the best part has been seeing the joy his picnic tables are bringing people.

"Now that the tables are starting to arrive at people's homes, they're taking photos and putting them on their Facebooks," he said. "And that's exciting for me!"


And it appears that Kalinowski has kicked off a major quarantine trend, as squirrel picnic tables have started popping up all over social media



One man in Michigan even built an entire restaurant for his favorite squirrels.


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