The Truckee Meadows always held a special place in their hearts. They both always wanted to eventually make Reno-Sparks their home again. In 2007, they did just that.
“We were always looking for a business opportunity and our goal was to come back to Reno-Sparks,” Kevin Simmons said. “We looked into a lot of opportunities and then we thought this would be great.”
The ‘this’ Simmons referred to is the Pump It Up franchise he and his wife built and own in the Sparks industrial area off Glendale Ave. The Simmons converted a former car parts warehouse into their Pump It Up location. The business features two arenas full of giant inflatable toys. There are inflatable bounce houses, slides, obstacle courses, and a mini basketball court to name a few.
The couple chose their location at 610 East Glendale with a purpose, believing it was centrally located for some and still had easy access from the Interstate for others. Kevin Simmons said Pump It Up gets patrons from across the valley, well beyond just Reno and Sparks. He often books parties for groups from Carson City, Incline Village and Truckee as well.
He said opening Pump It Up in the spring of 2007 has been good to him and his wife.
“Around that time, the economy was going to new heights,” he said. “We knew there was a need in the community for this type of business. In the winter, this gives kids a chance to do something physical. There are no video games around here. And in the summer, our entire building is air conditioned. So on the other side, when it’s 100 degrees out, the kids can come play inside.
“We’re very happy with our choice. The last few years, this community has been through a lot with the down economy, but we feel like we’ve made it through the tough time. Business dropped a little bit there, but for the most part, people always spend money on a birthday party. They still spend on their kids.”
Pump It Up was able to withstand some pressures from the economy’s downturn because of its special niche. Simmons said he believes the worst is behind us, but he was far from oblivious to the economic struggles of many local families.
“You can definitely see the economy is coming back. You can feel it just in people’s comfort level when talking on the phone,” Simmons said. “We all have budgets. For a few years, you could hear the pain in people’s voices. Now you can just hear the excitement.”
That excitement filled the air Tuesday morning at Pump It Up during an Open Jump session.
“It’s fun. It’s a good way to let the kids get some energy out,” said Liz McKinley, a nanny of two local children. “They love it here. It’s a nice option when it’s cold. They don’t get to play in a bounce house everyday. It’s definitely different than going to the museum.”
There is always plenty of excitement when you walk into one of the arenas at Pump It Up. Children’s laughter and screams of joy fill the air. Simmons called it a “controlled happy chaos.” That’s one of the things the Simmons love about owning Pump It Up — they are able to offer a service and run a business that brings happiness to families.
“Toward the end of parties we put all the kids at the bottom of the slide and we take a group picture,” Simmons said. “There have been a lot of kids. I often think that’s a lot of pictures in scrapbooks and fun memories created here.”
Simmons said he truly enjoys offering an environment where families can come to have fun, but he also admitted part of what’s made Pump It Up a success has been the hard work of his family.
“For us, this is our first time owning a small business,” Simmons said. “So we do everything ourselves. I was just doing payroll. You have to be hands on. That’s the key to our success. My wife and I are involved.
“I think business owners who were more hands off, probably had to let more employees go during the tough times and then had to get more involved.”
Simmons said he and his wife will certainly stay involved in their business. While their service and product isn’t expected to change, he said they’re always looking for new ways to keep Pump It Up fun and avoid becoming stale.
“We’re always evolving. Now, I don’t know if that means we’re going to add a second story,” he quipped. “But we’re always trying to look at adding a new program or finding new ways to keep the experience fresh. We don’t need an ‘R&D’ department, but we’re always looking for feedback, whether that’s adding more inflatables or doing something else. We want to give the people what they want.”