If you always loved taking your kids to the former Fernandina Party n Play, don’t worry: all your favorite features haven’t changed at the kids’ indoor play place off Sadler Road.
They still have the giant alligator bounce house, huge slides, foosball table, video gaming room and mini bounce houses for smaller children. They still do birthday parties. They still have a nice lounge area for parents to relax while the kids get their wiggles out.
But if you had a bad experience at the business in years past, new owner Andy Huggins is asking for the chance to win you back.
Huggins, himself, began his interaction with the business as a customer. He loved taking his kids, now ages 8 and 9, to play there, but he couldn’t help thinking about the changes he would make if he owned the business himself. Eventually he started taking the idea seriously and finally bought the business from its former owner last year.
Now renamed Party Bounce Play, the business has been examined from top to bottom by a man who really means business.
“I have 20 years of franchising in my background, most recently with H&R Block,” Huggins told me during a recent visit to the business at 1852 Sadler Road in Fernandina Beach. “When I took over, I wanted to clean this place up and make it more professional.”
He meant that both literally and figuratively. Literally, he cleaned up by hiring a new cleaning crew that puts a polish on the business daily. He also figuratively cleaned house by changing policies, hiring more staff and examining every aspect of the business.
Now he has a smaller ratio of employees to children. He’s reorganized the gaming area, which includes 400 PlayStation, Wii and Xbox games to choose from and 10 flat screen TVs to play them on. Even moms and dads get a spruced up experience, with free Wi-Fi, coffee and a flat screen TV in the lounge area. He also spruced up a patio area outside.
“I’m trying to bring more value to the parents and let them know there’s somebody here that cares,” Huggins said.
Huggins also hired two local tutors, Kathy Davenport and Susan Bennett, to work with children on their homework after school. The tutors are available for both private one-on-one tutoring and for a more general “homework help” session on Wednesdays, in which they use drills and worksheets to reinforce what kids are learning in the classroom.
Huggins said he appreciates that Party Bounce Play is an independent business. It’s not part of a larger company that doesn’t understand the unique needs of the community it’s in. Rather, it’s a business that’s built on its community connections. Huggins works with area schools, churches and businesses to keep Party Bounce Play hopping. He also offers a weekly parents’ night out on Saturday nights.
And he’s just getting started. Next, he envisions forming partnerships with area businesses for specially sponsored events. For example, he wants to work with area restaurants to offer free “parents’ survival nights” to patrons of those restaurants. The participating restaurants would sponsor the evening, covering the cost for children to eat and play at Party Bounce Play while their parents dine at the restaurant.
Huggins also plans themed events and special hours depending on what’s going on with schools and the holidays.
“Basically, if school’s out, we’re open,” he said.
There’s probably more he could have shared about the business, but the whole time I was interviewing him, my 3-year-old was standing beside me, demanding that I stop talking and start bouncing with her. Eventually I obliged, and enjoyed personally that Party Bounce Play is happy to let parents join in the fun at no extra cost. I didn’t have the nerve to ascend the tallest slide, but I did finally get to see what it’s like to be inside the belly of the giant alligator bounce house. What I learned is that a visit to Party Bounce Play is now as much fun for parents as it is for kids, whether you’re relaxing in the lounge or jumping to your heart’s content. As for my kids? They were asking when we could go back again before we even made it out of the parking lot.
If you want to go:
Where: Party Bounce Play is at 1852 Sadler Road, Fernandina Beach, FL
When: Open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 1 to 6 p.m. Sunday. Closed Mondays. Check for special hours when school’s out.