1. Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory & Gardens for sale; family of founder George Miller seeks buyer with ‘a passion for butterflies’

    Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory & Gardens for sale; family of founder George Miller seeks buyer with ‘a passion for butterflies’

    Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory & Gardens boasts more than 4,000 colorful insect residents, representing 50 species from around the world. And soon, the roadside attraction may have a new owner. Current owners George E. Miller III of Bernardston and Kathleen A. Fiore of Northfield started looking last week for a buyer at the business their father, George E. Miller Jr., helped create in 1999. Magic Wings has drawn more than 2 million visitors since it first opened.

    “So my brother and I, we are thinking about trying to retire,” Fiore said. “We are looking for new people to come into Magic Wings with a passion for butterflies and butterfly conservation.”

    And don’t worry. The new owner doesn’t need to know much, for now, about how to keep the winged beauties thriving. Fiore said Magic Wings’ curator, who is a lepidopterist — a butterfly expert — with a degree in entomology, and an assistant will stay on to help care for the butterflies.

    “The person who is coming in just needs to have a desire and passion,” she said.

    She and her brother are willing to help with the transition as well.

    Fiore said the first prospective owners will get showings this week. She said the sales process will last a couple of months.

    In the meantime, Magic Wings will continue to operate, and is expected to be especially busy during school vacations next week. Fiore said she’s honoring all commitments to host weddings at the conservatory. Events are booked into 2022, she said.

    Magic Wings is open Wednesdays through Sundays and has been busy even with COVID protocols limiting capacity to 50 people at a time in the 8,000-square-foot tropical conservatory.

    The gift shop is open, but the food court is closed.

    “We don’t want anyone taking down their mask,” she said.

    George E. Miller Jr., who died at 75 in 2017, first got involved with Magic Wings as the building contractor, Fiore said. Over time, he became partners with the entrepreneur who came up with the original idea and then later bought the business outright.

    Fiore said she’s worked there 18 years, starting off helping her father by running the gift shop. Her brother has worked there for 17 years.

    The family’s been a stalwart supporter of the Greater Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau over all those years, said bureau president Mary Kay Wydra. Magic Wings went along on the bureau’s road trips pitching Western Massachusetts as a vacation spot, sometimes with a case of butterflies that could be released at the destination.

    “They’ve been a great asset” she said.

    Magic Wings offers a family educational experience on a stretch of Route 5 in Franklin County where there are other tourist attractions: Yankee Candle, Richardson’s Candy Kitchen and Historic Deerfield.

    “There is a lot going on through those three or four miles,” Wydra said.

    And soon to be more. Treehouse Brewing — a craft beer company with a cult following of customers — has bought the former Channing Bete headquarters and plans to create a tasting room and destination with space to host festivals.

    “So that will be just one more attraction,” Wydra said.

    Of course, attractions are still restricted by COVID-19 protocols. But Wydra said businesses in travel and tourism are already planning for reopening to begin in earnest in the late spring, the May to June timeframe that usually marks the start of the tourism year.

    “I think you’ll see pent up demand for travel,” she said. “By that point more vaccines will have gone into arms. There have been people who have been staying home and not spending their entertainment dollars.”

    Of course, while we wait for that, Fiore plugs Magic Wings as the perfect winter getaway.

    “Walking into the butterfly conservatory is like walking into a tropical county,” she said. “You’d literally have to take a trip around the world to see what you can see at Magic Wings.”

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