Jump Around Fun Zone
Owners: Matt and Sarah Robison and Cris and Nikki Wesselman
Address: 4600 Meridian St. Suite 108
Startup date: May 2
Square footage: 6,000 square feet
Every Sunday for six months, the Robison and Wesselman families bounced around the idea of an indoor play area that would appeal to kids and their parents.
They started out delivering inflatable bounce houses for private events but then they saw the big picture.
“Because of the weather, outdoor-oriented businesses don’t do that well,” Matt said. “Most often, people are trying to get out of the weather.”
On May 2, they opened Jump Around Fun Zone, an indoor bounce paradise for kids and their parents. The space holds a 22-foot-long obstacle course, an 18-foot-tall, two-lane slide, two inflatable bounce houses, a toddler area and a parents area with free wireless Internet. As well, the business sells healthy snacks and coffee drinks.
From the moment they met, the two couples got along. Both husbands worked at T-Mobile and their wives happened to be pregnant at the same time.
Together, the couples have nine children, all under the age of 10, and in the course of their friendship the families noticed a lack of local, kid-friendly family activities.
“There is not a lot out there to do when you have young children with you,” Cris said. “So [Jump Around Fun Zone] seemed like an obvious move for us.”
In 6,000 square feet, children from age 2 to age 11 have plenty of room to run around from one inflatable attraction to the other. Some parents show up with just a few kids and others are hosting “play groups,” where a parent or two looks after three or four sets of children while other parents get some time to themselves.
A toddler area with toys and a playhouse amuses those who are a bit too young, and living-room-style area allows parents to visit over a cup of coffee.
A big priority for the business from the beginning has been to see the fun zone through the eyes of a parent.
With this in mind, the fun zone offers traditional treats and healthy options at the concession stand such as fruit slices and granola bars.
Matt said cleanliness is one of their top priorities. At times, Matt said, indoor play centers are not the cleanest or most sanitary places to take children. So Matt said they sanitize daily, schedule regular deep cleaning, require all children to wear socks and provide a big dispenser of hand sanitizer in the play area. The business also emphasizes security. When families come in, each member is given a matching wristband that is checked when anyone leaves with a child.
“We host birthday parties and all kinds of special events but we will always welcome drop-ins,” Matt said.
Entrance into the Jump Around Fun Zone with no time restrictions is $5.95 per child age 2 to 11.
Red Cedar Communications
Owner: Heather Lewis
Address: 909 Harris Ave. #201D
Startup date: May 13
Square footage: 300 square feet
Heather Lewis has two passions in her life: words and the environment.
Recently Lewis has forged those two passions into one mission, which is to use words to help promote a healthy planet.
In May, Lewis opened Red Cedar Communications, a communications resource for organizations and non-profits working toward healthy land, air, water and agriculture.
“Words have the power to focus a mission and create change in people’s minds and in the way they live,” Lewis said.
Lewis said she wants to be a resource for grant writing, press releases and any other communication solutions to help spread the word about an organization’s work in an effort to inspire and motivate the public.
Lewis grew up in Richmond, Va., where she said most people just could not find the time or the space to care about the environment, which is a lot different from the Northwest.
“I can remember arguing with my friend’s mother about recycling. She just kept saying, ‘I don’t have enough room in my kitchen,’” Lewis said. “But in Seattle, even the people who drive big SUVs and Hummers say you have to recycle.”
Then, one summer, Lewis worked on a farm near Washington, D.C., where Lewis said she had a close encounter with the beauty and fertility of the earth.
“I think that had a really significant effect on my thoughts on agriculture. It is so beautiful,” Lewis said. “It’s something you understand with your head but it’s different to understand it with your hands.”
Lewis’ family had friends in Seattle and they would come out to visit from time to time. But the Northwest had a lasting impression on Lewis. After finishing her master’s degree in non-fiction writing, Lewis packed her bags and moved to Seattle and eventually ended up in Bellingham.
Lewis said she was inspired by the number of organizations and nonprofits working for a better environment and she wanted to help.
“I’ve been very impressed with the community-mindedness of the people here and I thought it would be a good place to work,” Lewis said.
Lewis said two of her greatest assets are that she is not limiting herself to one type of writing, which can make her a complete communications solution, and she is focused on whom she wants to work with and what cause she wants to work for.
“I do have a lot of experience with this type of work but I don’t have the benefit of 20 years of experience behind me.”
Lewis has hit the ground running and said she is using the first couple months to meet with organizations.
My main focus for this month and next month is making connections and building credibility,” Lewis said.
Northwest Sleep Solutions
Owners: Scott and LeAnn Caseria
Address: 1440 10th St. Suite 103
Startup date: May 12
Square footage: 2,650 square feet
Scott and LeAnn Caseria hate it when people say they need to run out and buy a mattress.
“That’s not a good way to buy a bed,” Scott said.
That’s why the couple opened Northwest Sleep Solutions. The Caserias said that bedding buyers should pause and take the time to realize choosing a mattress is an important decision.
“We have to talk people into taking their time,” LeAnn said, “because they are going to sleep on that mattress for the next 10 years.”
Scott’s 20 years in the mattress business has given the couple specific insight.
Scott moved to Fairhaven in 1982 where he met his future wife, LeAnn, while attending Western Washington University. While finishing college in 1985, he went to work at DeWitt’s Furniture, which was trying to crack into the mattress business at the time. Within a year, he was manager. A few years later, he became co-owner.
After Scott sold his interest in DeWitt’s, he went to work for DeWaard & Bode, which was also just beginning to offer mattresses.
“I thought I was just there to set it up but it turned into a job and I was there for eight years,” Scott said.
For years, Scott thought about having his own mattress store.
“A lot of places are about selling mattresses and making money,” Scott said. “But it goes beyond that and I started realizing a lot of people just don’t get that.”
Scott and LeAnn said they tried to create a calm, tranquil environment free from high-pressure sales where a customer can grab a pillow and stretch out.
“How can you buy a bed when you are stressed out?” Scott asked. “We wanted it to be relaxed and nice in here.”
A peaceful environment is also what attracted the Caserias to open their store in Fairhaven.
“It’s a laid-back place where people like to go anyway,” Scott said. “People can come in and try a bed. We won’t force it down their throat. We want to make it enjoyable instead of stressful.”
Currently, the store focuses on mattresses and pillows but the Caserias said they named their business Northwest Sleep Solutions because they wanted the store to be able to evolve to carry a lot more products, such as linens and comforters.
“We’re a little unique because we really like the idea of helping people sleep better,” Scott said.