When Rich Ferns and Phil Stoops say they are so excited about their new business that they are jumping up and down, they mean it.
They are the proud owners of a 21,000-square-foot room full of trampolines.
Ferns and Stoops opened their first Sky Zone trampoline park in Glen Mills last month. They plan to open two more outposts of the national bounce house franchise in Levittown and Chalfont in the spring and summer, then expand to Philadelphia and South Jersey. Another owner already operates a Sky Zone in Oaks.
In its first three weeks, their Glen Mills business has proved so popular they are bouncing off the walls. On Saturdays, they have had about 1,000 visitors. About half go to Sky Zone for birthday parties; the others pay $16 per person for an hour of jumping.
Jumpers can play an extra-springy round of dodgeball, hurl themselves into a pit full of 9,000 foam blocks, or perfect their backflips. For adults, Ferns and Stoops plan trampoline aerobics classes.
Ferns, who lives in Chalfont, and Stoops, of Glen Mills, met at AT&T, where both worked before they decided to go into the trampoline business.
"Phil kept saying to me, 'I want to go to work and have fun every day,' " Ferns said. The men - each has three children with an age range among them of 6 to 14 - heard about the Sky Zone franchise of 48 parks across the United States and Canada. They decided to jump in.
They hired five other full-time staff members. For 80 part-time jobs running the trampoline games and staffing the cash register, they received more than 600 applications.
Many of the people they hired are high schoolers who wear their Sky Zone shirts to school, leading their friends to go to weekend jumping-and-pizza teen nights.
"The No. 1 factor we didn't anticipate is how much demand is pent up for this type of activity that's healthy, fun, and active," Ferns said. They said they have had trouble keeping up with their voice mail, which cuts off after 60 to 80 messages.
Customers who walk in on a Saturday without reserving jumping time online might find a four- to five-hour wait. Before the doors even opened, they had booked more than 200 birthday parties, they said, for which parents pay $220 to $500, even more for ice cream and party favors.
Safer than backyard
Every visitor must sign a waiver and listen to a rules speech by an employee before bouncing. Ferns and Stoops say that their park, with employees supervising children, separate jumping areas for bouncers of different ages, and daily inspection of equipment, is safer than a backyard trampoline.
In conjunction with local children's charities, they plan special designated play hours for children with disabilities. "These kids can come in here and not be judged," Ferns said. "If they want to yell and scream, they can yell and scream. If they want to jump off the walls, they can jump off the walls."
The men tout Sky Zone for any child as a no-skills-required birthday party rather than rock climbing or ice skating, or as a healthy alternative to an afternoon at the movies.
"The kids don't even know they're working out," Stoop said. While parents perhaps take advantage of the WiFi in a lounge area overlooking the bouncers, children enjoy riotous exercise. "They come back saying, 'Wow, that was something,' all sweaty and red-faced."
Of course, some parents choose to jump, too.
BY THE NUMBERS
per person for an hour of jumping.
foam blocks fill one of the jumping pits.
Sky Zone parks across the United States and Canada.
applications received for 80 part-time jobs at the Glen Mills Sky Zone.