As I walked down the alley branching from Sherman Avenue between Saville Flowers and MattressFirm, I was unsure of what to expect from the art prints and framing shop known as the Alley Gallery. Once inside, I was greeted with the melodic sound of a ukulele being played by one of the gallery’s co-owners, Ross Martens. In the background, the faint sound of opera music permeated through the shop. Ornate rugs covered the floors and complimented the vintage posters and assorted artwork that studded the brick walls. However, the real attraction of the gallery is none other than the double yellow-headed Amazon parrot that resides there.
Jessica, or Jessica T. Bird as the staff fondly calls her, was born to a captive parrot breeder in 1985. A year later, the previous owner’s girlfriend bought her and she has dwelled at the Alley Gallery ever since. She spends her days grazing on organic produce, admiring her colorful feathers in her mirror (yes she does) and observing the customers that come and go.
A very intelligent species, most yellow-headed parrots operate at the intelligence levels of a young toddler. Jessica is no exception. Although her favorite phrases now are “hello,” “goodbye” and “Jessica,” those are by no means the extent of her capabilities. Sometimes, Jessica hears a joke and responds with a real laugh at the appropriate time, even before others do.
Jessica loves meeting new people, especially those who are eager to feed her sunflower seeds. I highly recommend visiting Alley Galley and feeding Jessica, but be warned, she does not like flashy nail polish colors. Unfortunately for me, my nails were freshly painted. So my friend who came along had the honor of feeding her instead. Jessica gracefully plucked the seed out from her fingers and quickly ate it.
With any pet you are guaranteed to have a few funny stories about its quirky actions, but with a parrot, those stories can be even more strange thanks to its ability to talk. Martens recalled that once when he was alone at the shop, he suddenly heard a voice, saying:“Hello Jessica, you’re such a pretty bird. Oh yes you are. You’re so pretty. You’re so beautiful.” Suspecting someone had entered the shop, Martens went out to investigate and found Jessica to be the only possible owner of that voice. Indeed, she was just showing some self-love!
Although the avian presence within a vintage bookstore may not be something you see everyday, Martens said Jessica is actually very compatible with the Alley Gallery’s purpose.
“Taking good care of a parrot over 30 years is not the easiest thing in the world,” Martens said. “I think it's a sort of subliminal testament to the work that we do. What we do is frame pieces to last forever and we also have a parrot that's gonna last forever.”